The following are the main changes to the Rules of Golf taking effect January 1, 2019 that are likely to occur during BDVGA competitions. The main reasons for the changes are to simplify the rules and to speed up play.  It is recommended that all BDVGA Golfers obtain a copy of the “Player’s Edition of the Rules of Golf” Effective January 2019 which is available free of charge from your home golf club. This will explain the rules of golf in a user friendly manner with explanatory notes and diagrams. Click HERE to see the full rules of golf together with explanatory diagrams and photos.

Player Responsibilities

Expected Standards of Player Conduct

The number of rules has been considerably reduced and simplified. Hence they rely heavily on honesty and high standards of conduct expected from players with respect to integrity in following the rules and counting penalties, other players and the course on which you are playing. Rule 1.2.

Encouraging Prompt Pace of Play

Rule 6.4 will expressly allow and encourages players to play out of turn in both stroke and match play in a safe and responsible manner to save time.

It is recommended that you play “ready golf” and make each stroke in no more than 40 seconds after you are able to play without interference or distraction. Rule 5.6b.

Time For Search Before Ball is Lost

Your ball is lost if not found in three minutes (rather than the current 5 minutes) to assist in pace of play. Rule 18.2a

Elimination of the Requirement to Announce the Player’s Intent to Lift a Ball

When you have good reason to mark and lift your ball, you are no longer required to first announce your intention. Rule 4.2c, 7.3 and 16.4.

Reasonable Judgment in Estimating and Measuring

When a player does all that is reasonably expected under the circumstances to make a prompt and accurate estimation or measurement of a spot, point, line, area or other location as required by the rules, their reasonable judgement is accepted. Rule 1.3b(2).There is no penalty for small inaccuracies even if later shown to be wrong by other information.


Use of Clubs Damaged During Round

A club damaged during a round can continue to be used, even if you damaged it in anger. Rule 4.1

 Adding Clubs to Replace a Club Damaged During Round

You will not be allowed to replace a damaged club during a round if you were responsible for the damage. Rule 4.1

Use of Distance-Measuring Devices

The use of DMDs will be allowed.

Specific Rules for Specific Areas

General Area

There are five areas of the course. The term “General Area” replaces the term “through the green”. The “General area covers the entire course with the exception of the following four areas. (i) the teeing area of the hole you are playing Rule 6.2 (ii) all penalty areas Rule 17 (iii) all bunkers Rule 12 (iv) the putting green of the hole you are playing Rule 13.

When to Replace a Ball That Moves on the Putting Green

After your ball has been lifted and replaced, you would always replace your ball on its original spot, even if it was blown by the wind or moved for no clear reason. Rule 13.1d.

Repairing Damage on the Putting Green

Reasonable repair of almost any damage allowed on the putting green (including spike marks and animal damage). Rule 13.1c.

Touching Line of Play on a Putting Green

There is no penalty for touching your line of play on the putting green so long as doing so does not improve the conditions for your stroke. Rule 13.

Ball Played From Green Hits Unattended Flagstick in Hole

No penalty if your ball played from the putting green (or anywhere else) hits the unattended flagstick in the hole. Rule 13.2a. You must decide before making the stroke if you want the flagstick unattended. You must not try to gain an advantage by deliberately moving the flagstick to a position other than centred in the hole. Penalty two strokes.  See Rule 13.2b for a ball hitting an attended flagstick

Ball Resting Against Flagstick in Hole

If your ball comes to rest against the flagstick left in the hole, and any part of your ball is in the hole below the surface of the putting green your ball is treated as holed. If not part of the ball is below the surface of the putting green your ball is not holed and must be played as it lies even if it subsequently drops in the hole when the flagstick is removed in which case it must be replaced on the lip of the hole. Rule 13.2c.

Areas the Committee May Mark as Penalty Areas

Areas of desert, jungle, lava rock, etc. (in addition to areas of water) may now be marked as red or yellow “penalty areas.” The term “water hazard” will no longer be used. Committees are given the discretion to mark any penalty area as red so that lateral relief is always allowed. Rule 17.

Touching Loose Impediments or Ground in a Penalty Area

No penalty for moving loose impediments, touching the ground, or grounding your club in a penalty area, so long as your ball does not move. Rules 8.1a,15.1 and 17.

Moving or Touching Loose Impediments or Touching Sand in a Bunker

There are partially relaxed rules relating to loose impediments, moveable obstructions and touching the ground in a bunker. Rule 12.2. However a player may still not deliberately touch the sand in a bunker with a club in making a practice swing or grounding the club right in front or behind the ball or in making a backswing for a stroke.

Unplayable Ball in Bunker

Back on the Line relief is allowed outside a bunker for an unplayable ball for two penalty strokes. Rule 19.3. There is only one penalty stroke if relief is taken in the bunker.

Ball at Rest

Ball Moved During Search

No penalty for accidentally moving your ball during search. Rules 7.4 and 9.4b The ball must be replaced on its original spot except when it moves after commencing your stroke and you continue with your stroke. Rule 9.4a

No Penalty for Moving Ball on the Putting Green

No penalty for accidentally moving your ball or ball-marker on the putting green. See requirement for replacement in above item. Rule 9.4a.

Standard for Deciding Why a Ball Moved

There is a new standard to determine if you caused your ball to move. See Rules 9.2 and 9.3.

Replacing Ball When Original Spot is Not Known

When the original location of your ball is not known, replace it on its estimated spot. Rules 7 and 9.

 Ball in Motion

Ball in Motion Accidentally Deflected

No penalty if your ball in motion is accidentally deflected by you or your equipment.. Exception:  Ball putted from putting green hitting another ball stationary on putting green. Rule 11.1a.

Playing a Ball

Ball Accidentally Struck More Than Once During a Stroke

If your club accidentally strikes your ball more than once during a stroke, there will be no penalty and your ball will be played as it lies. Rule 10.1a.

Taking Relief

Measuring the Size of the Relief Area Where a Ball Must Be Dropped and Played

Your relief area for dropping a ball will be a fixed size no nearer the hole of either one or two club-lengths depending on the circumstances using the longest club in your bag, other than your putter.

New Procedure for Dropping a Ball

Your ball must be let go from knee height and fall straight down (without imparting spin etc) through the air without touching any part of your body or equipment and must land in the relief area and come to rest in the relief area else it must be redropped. Rule 14. The relief area will depend on the applicable rule covering the situation.

Substitution of Ball Always Allowed When Taking Relief

You may always substitute a ball when taking relief but not when replacing ball on a spot. Rule 6.3b.

Relief For an Embedded Ball

Relief allowed without penalty for an embedded ball anywhere (except in sand) in the “general area” (a new term for “through the green”). Rule 16.3a

Procedure for Taking Lateral Relief

In taking lateral relief (Red Penalty area only) you will drop within two club-lengths of where your ball entered the penalty area no nearer the hole. Rule 17.1d. Note that this rule removes the option to take relief on the opposite side of a red penalty area unless a local rule applies.

 Procedure for Taking Back-on-the-Line Relief

One of your options for relief from either a red or yellow penalty area will be called back-on-the-line relief. Rule 17.1d

Out of Bounds and Lost Ball

New Local Rule: Alternative to Stroke and Distance

They allow a new Local Rule which has been adopted by BDVGA  which provides an alternative to stroke-and-distance relief for a ball that is lost outside a penalty area or out of bounds. If a provisional ball has not been played, the player should drop a ball on the fairway within the vicinity of where it went out of bounds or was deemed to be lost with a penalty of two strokes.