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USGA, R&A Announce 2023 Rules of Golf Update

LIBERTY CORNER, N.J., USA, and ST. ANDREWS, Scotland (Nov. 7, 2022) – The USGA and The R&A have unveiled a regular update to the Rules of Golf as they continue to make the Rules easier to understand and apply. The new Rules will go into effect on January 1, 2023.

The 2023 edition continues the modernization process, with an emphasis on both inclusion and sustainability. For the first time, the modified Rules for players with disabilities have been fully incorporated into the playing rules without the need to adopt a local rule. The governing bodies, supported by longstanding partner Rolex, will also promote digital and mobile app access to the Rules while significantly reducing the production and distribution of more than 4 million printed books.

Several penalties have been relaxed and language has been clarified to help golfers at all levels of play.

Key changes include:

  • Modifications for Players with Disabilities: The modifications to the Rules for players with disabilities have been made part of the Rules and are in effect for all players who are classified in the categories covered in Rule 25
  • Handicap Usage in Stroke Play: With the continued growth of score-posting technology following the adoption of the World Handicap System™, players are no longer penalized for failing to put their handicap on their scorecard in stroke play. The committee will be responsible for ensuring the accuracy of each player’s handicap.
  • Club Damaged During Round: The Rule has been amended to allow a player to replace a club that is damaged during a round, provided the player did not damage it through abuse.
  • Ball Moved by Natural Forces: A new exception provides that a ball at rest must be replaced if it moves to another area of the course or comes to rest out of bounds after being dropped, placed or replaced.
  • Back-on-the-Line Relief Procedure: The back-on-the-line relief procedure, often used for penalty area and unplayable ball relief, has been simplified so that the player now drops their ball on the line, and the ball must come to rest within one club-length of where it is dropped.

Golfers will be able to learn more about the major changes and review the official 2023 Rules of Golf by visiting and Full updates to the official Rules of Golf digital applications will be available starting on January 1.

“The growing popularity of golf continues to guide our decision-making, and modernizing the Rules to promote inclusivity and accessibility is clearly a great step in the right direction,” said Thomas Pagel, USGA Chief Governance Officer. “This latest evolution is especially important to the community of golfers with disabilities, and we hope it will encourage more people to play and enjoy the game.”

Grant Moir, Director of Rules at The R&A, said, “We are continuing to improve and adapt the Rules of Golf to ensure they are in line with the way the modern game is played. That means making the Rules easier to understand and access for all golfers and making the sport more inclusive and welcoming for golfers with disabilities. We are also working to ensure golf has a sustainable long-term future and making more resources available digitally is key to achieving that goal.”

Players are reminded that the current edition of the Rules of Golf (2019) still applies when playing or posting scores for the remainder of 2022.

As an extension of their support of the Rules of Golf worldwide, Rolex has made a commitment to support The R&A’s and the USGA’s efforts to modernize golf’s Rules. The Swiss watchmaker’s contribution to excellence in golf is based on a rich heritage stretching back more than 50 years, forged through pivotal partnerships at every level of the game, from the sport’s leading professional and amateur competitions and organizations to players at the pinnacle of their sport worldwide.

About the USGA 
The USGA is a nonprofit organization that celebrates, serves and advances the game of golf. Founded in 1894, we conduct many of golf’s premier professional and amateur championships, including the U.S. Open and U.S. Women’s Open Presented by ProMedica. With The R&A, we govern the sport via a global set of playing, equipment, handicapping and amateur status rules. The USGA campus in Liberty Corner, New Jersey, is home to the Association’s Research and Test Center, where science and innovation are fueling a healthy and sustainable game for the future. The campus is also home to the USGA Golf Museum, where we honor the game by curating the world’s most comprehensive archive of golf artifacts. To learn more, visit

About The R&A

References in this document to The R&A are to R&A Rules Limited. Together The R&A, based in St. Andrews, Scotland, and the USGA govern the sport of golf worldwide, operating in separate jurisdictions but with a commitment to a single code for the Rules of Golf, Rules of Amateur Status and Equipment Standards. The R&A governs the sport worldwide, outside of the United States and Mexico, on behalf of over 36 million golfers in 144 countries and with the consent of 159 organizations from amateur and professional golf.

The R&A aims to invest £200 million in developing golf over a decade and supports the growth of the sport internationally, including the development and management of sustainable golf facilities.  For more information visit

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Volunteer Spotlight: Steve Suhey

Steve Suhey’s father introduced him to the game of golf when he was 6 years old in 1956. They spent Sunday evenings looping the nearby course in central Pennsylvania. Today, Suhey continues to create lasting memories on golf courses more than 1,500 miles away from where he grew up and learned to play.

“I love the challenge of golf throughout your lifetime,” Suhey said. “It’s a game you can play your whole life, and as you grow older you face new challenges. I’ve really enjoyed that.”

In 1982, Suhey and his wife, Louise, moved to Texas. The avid amateur golfer played in competitive events across the state, including championships conducted by the Texas Golf Association. He’d always loved and appreciated the Rules of Golf, but it wasn’t until met Marty Javors that he began to get involved as a Rules official.

“In the late 1980s, I met Marty, who had been a TGA and USGA Rules official for many years,” Suhey said. “He encouraged me to get involved with the Rules, but because of my businesses and travel schedule, I could never do it. I promised Marty that when I retired I would turn my attention to the Rules and get involved as a Rules official.”

In 2016, Suhey delivered on his promise. Following his retirement as an insurance broker, he attended his first USGA/PGA Rules of Golf Workshop, took his first Rules of Golf exam and volunteered with the TGA.

“When he finally pulled the trigger he didn’t hold back at all,” Javors said. “He’s a very smart guy and learned the Rules very quickly. He loves the game and he’s been a huge help to the golf community in Texas.”

Over the years, Suhey has become one of the most dedicated TGA volunteers. In 2020, he officiated over 40 days at local and statewide men’s, women’s and junior championships.

“As a volunteer, my goal is to help the competitors play by the Rules,” Suhey said. “In order to do that, you have to ask a lot of questions to find out the exact situation and make sure the player knows what his options are.”

Suhey values the interactions he has with players, working with TGA staff and building relationships with other volunteers. His “team-first” mentality has not gone unrecognized by the TGA.

“Steve’s presence makes our championships better and our job as a staff easier,” TGA Tournament Director Ian Davis said. “It doesn’t matter what his assignment is for the day, he is the first one on site and he is the last to leave. Steve is a staunch individual and you can always count on him. He’s always available to stick around for a playoff or help with packing up the equipment when we finish.”

Golf is an ever-evolving game. It teaches lessons on and off the golf course, and Suhey has been a part of unique lessons for so many amateur golfers across the state. Sixty-four years since he touched his first club, Suhey continues to grow from the lessons of golf.

“Because of what golf has given me over the years, this is my way of giving back,” Suhey said. “I learn something at every tournament I officiate and every meeting I attend. And like the game of golf itself, you keep learning and learning and learning and it never stops throughout your life.”

The TGA extends its sincere appreciation to Steve for his efforts in making our championships a success. The work and dedication from all our volunteers allows the TGA to grow and continue to support the game we all love.

To learn more about the TGA Volunteer Program, click here.

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Winter Golf and Loose Impediments

Rules of Golf Loose Impediments

One of the many great things about Texas is our year-round golf season. It might mean an extra layer or two of clothing, but plenty of Texans already are playing golf and posting scores. And, while playing this time of year can be wonderful, it does lead to some extra challenges we don’t face in the summer. If you play this weekend, you’ll probably encounter more objects on the ground than usual, such as fallen leaves and branches. These and other natural objects are classified by the Rules as loose impediments. Luckily, you can move loose impediments out of your way without penalty.

By definition, loose impediments are unattached natural objects like stones, loose grass, leaves, branches, pine needles, clumps of compacted soil (including aeration plugs), etc. Dead animals, worms, insects and other similar life forms that can be removed easily, and the mounds or webs they build (such as worm casts and ant hills), are also loose impediments.

However, and be careful here, such natural objects are not “loose” if they are attached or growing, solidly embedded in the ground (that is, cannot be picked out easily) or sticking to the ball. Those are not loose impediments.

Neither is loose soil, sand, dew, frost and/or water. Snow and natural ice (other than frost) are either loose impediments (meaning they can be moved) or, when on the ground, temporary water (meaning free relief is available), at your option. While sand and loose soil are not loose impediments by definition, you may remove them on the putting green.

With the new Rules that were implemented in 2019, players now are able to remove loose impediments that lie anywhere on the course without penalty, see Rule 15.1a. There previously were restrictions against moving them in a penalty area, but you may now move loose impediments that lie in any area of the course, including in a bunker or a penalty area.

While you may remove loose impediments anywhere, you should take care to not move your ball in doing so. If the removal of a loose impediment causes your ball to move, you must replace the ball on its original spot and you usually get a one-stroke penalty, see Rule 15.1b. There are exceptions to the Rule though. When your ball lies on the putting green, there is no penalty if you accidentally cause it to move when removing a loose impediment. Also, you can remove loose impediments by any means! Go ahead and use your towel or hat to remove any such items that may be in your way.

Another common question related to loose impediments is what happens if your ball deflects off a loose impediment while it’s in motion? If your ball in motion hits a loose impediment, you must play it as it lies with no penalty. This applies whether the loose impediment is moving or at rest and whether your ball is on the putting green or elsewhere.

Abnormal Conditions

In addition to loose impediments being more pervasive in the winter, it’s also the time of year when many courses undergo various maintenance projects, so you may encounter some abnormal conditions on the course.

The offseason often is a time when clubs schedule regular maintenance, such as aeration or course improvement projects. Let’s take a look at how these practices might affect play on the golf course. Any hole made by the Committee or the maintenance staff in maintaining the course (such as a hole made in removing turf or a tree stump, or laying pipelines) as well as grass cuttings, leaves and any other material piled for later removal are deemed ground under repair by definition. Therefore, you are automatically entitled to free relief, see Rule 16.1.

A Committee may also wish to define certain areas as ground under repair because of course conditions. If the Committee clarifies that an area is treated as ground under repair, you may also take free relief provided your ball does not lie in a penalty area.

Aeration holes do not fall within the meaning of a hole made by the maintenance staff, and thus are not ground under repair. Therefore, you may not repair them on the putting green (or anywhere on the golf course) or automatically take free relief from them in the general area. As such, holes can interfere with the proper playing of the game, a Committee may choose to use a Local Rule to give relief from these holes (Model Local Rule E-4). If this Local Rule is in effect, you may take free relief when your ball lies in or touches an aeration hole.

When playing golf at this time of year, or really at any time of year, there is always a chance that you will encounter loose impediments or abnormal conditions on the golf course. Hopefully you now have a better understanding of how to proceed in these situations under the new 2019 Rules of Golf. Continue to enjoy golf in the New Year!

For more on the Rules, click here.

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Our Experts Weigh In on New Rules

Rules Roundtable

Now that we’ve had one season in the books using the USGA and R&A’s Updated Rules of Golf, we thought it would be interesting to ask the TGA’s Tournament Directors for their perspectives. We sat down with Senior Tournament Directors Kellen Kubasak and John Cochran IV, Tournament Directors Ian Davis and Kevin Porter, who runs the Legends Junior Tour, and Women’s Tournament Director Amy Worthington to find out their thoughts on how the changes in the Rules affected play during the 2019 Championship season.

Of all the Rules changes set in place by the USGA and The R&A at the beginning of the year, which one had the most impact on the championships you conducted?

JOHN COCHRAN IV, Men’s Championships: From my perspective, there were two changes that had the most impact: the reduction of time from 5 minutes to 3 minutes when conducting a ball search in reference to when a ball becomes lost, as well as putting with the flagstick in. The ball search change obviously helps keep up pace of play, but so too does putting with the flagstick in. No longer are players waiting for someone to tend the flagstick, nor are they spending time walking to the flagstick to tend it for others. Instead, they’re using that time to focus on their putt.

KELLEN KUBASAK, Men’s Championships: While the ball search time change and ability to putt with the flagstick in certainly were impactful, from what I experienced, the Rules change that had the most impact on players was the ability to fix more things on the putting green, including shoe damage such as spike marks. This specific Rules change impacted players in the most positive way. Throughout the years prior to 2019, we’ve all seen putts bounce offline because of marks on the green from previous players’ shoe marks and other damage. The fact that players can fix those now had the most impact on their play this year.

IAN DAVIS, Men’s Championships: That’s an interesting take, Kellen, but I have to agree with John about the reduction of time allowed to search for a ball. Trimming the time allowed down to 3 minutes had the largest impact on the Championships I worked this year.

KEVIN PORTER, LJT Championships: Working nearly 20 LJT events this year, I have a different take on this question. The change to dropping the ball from knee height was definitely the most impactful. Early in the year, it was just so easy to incorrectly drop from shoulder height simply out of habit. The LJT players did a great job adapting. They understood that if they dropped from the wrong height, they could correct the mistake and drop it properly to avoid penalty.

AMY WORTHINGTON, Women’s Championships: From an administrative perspective, one of the most noticeable changes for me was the difference in how course marking was approached. The committee now has more flexibility in what can be considered a penalty area. Even if an area of the course isn’t meant to hold water, it can be marked as a penalty area. Being able to mark more of the course as penalty areas also improved pace of play.

Which Rule change was brought up most by players during competition?

IAN: That’s easy. Dropping from knee height.

KEVIN: Yep, same for me. Dropping the ball was brought up a lot at the first of the year, as players wanted to make sure they were doing it right. Also, I’d like to touch on something that isn’t brought up as much. Before the changes, players used to confirm with players in their group that they were only fixing damage from ball marks and not spike marks. It saves time for players now that certain damage isn’t up for interpretation on the putting green. The relaxations to the Rules on the putting green are big for golf.

AMY: The biggest question that came up at TGA Women’s Championships was about a rule that was not in effect for our competitions, Model Local Rule E-5 – Alternative to Stroke and Distance for Lost Ball or Ball out of Bounds. Players brought it up to confirm whether or not the Local Rule was in effect, as some of our players are used to using it at their home club. The Local Rule is appropriate for general play where golfers are playing casual rounds or playing their own competitions.

JOHN: Especially early in the season, and for those events where players aren’t playing as much competitively as our “regulars” were, the most questions I answered were about the drop at knee height. This seemed to be a Rules change that, in the heat of the moment, would slip some players’ minds.

KELLEN: Players were surprised to see that when dropping the golf ball, the ball had to remain in the relief area when it came to rest. Under the old Rules, in some cases the ball could roll up to two club lengths from where it first struck a part of the course after dropping. The addition of the relief area changed all that so, I answered more questions about that part of the ball drop than anything else.

In your opinion, which was the best change to the Rules of Golf?

KEVIN: I think the status of the flagstick was a good change because it allows players to putt towards the hole without the fear of striking the stick. It’s also good knowing that if a player hits a terrible putt, they won’t get penalized for hitting a flagstick that was laid down with the thought that there was no way it would be in play.

IAN: For me, it was the new terms for relief area and reference point. Especially when the terms are explained using the images in the Rule book, it greatly simplified when a ball is dropped correctly.

AMY: In my opinion, the best change was the emphasis on pace of play. You tend to hear that golf takes too long to play, so the new changes that encourage playing the game at a prompt pace are important. Additionally, introducing Maximum Score as a form of stroke play not only helps with pace of play but it also encourages new golfers to pick up the game.

JOHN: Going from 5 minutes to 3 minutes on ball searches. 5 minutes used to feel like an eternity, now 3 minutes comes fairly quick. There is a greater effort to find the golf ball and the reduced time allotted for search keeps play moving.

KELLEN: Being able to repair spike marks and other damage on the greens has really allowed players to showcase their putting skills. The putting green is the most sacred area of the course, so allowing players to repair more of that area was a great Rules change.

Which of the Rule changes took you the longest to get used to?

KELLEN: When I’m playing, it was always tough to get used to dropping from knee height because I had only known dropping from shoulder height. It seems that this was a change that players were aware of, but we needed to remind them during the first few events of the season before they actually dropped their ball.

IAN: For me, it was the changes to what happens when a ball in motion is deflected. Also how procedures change when the ball is played from a specific area of the course and what happens next depending on whom or what it was deflected by.

KEVIN: The terminology change was difficult for a while since I was so used to the previous definitions. Calling places penalty areas instead of “hazards” and the general area instead of “through the green”. I’ve gotten much better now, but I still hear those words, and an alarm goes off in my head.

AMY: Kevin nailed it. For me, it was the language changes. I still find myself sometimes saying “hazard” instead of penalty area, or using terms that don’t exist anymore.

JOHN: I’m in the same camp with Kevin and Amy here. From an administrative perspective, learning and using the new terminology (“casual water” is now temporary water, “hazards” to penalty areas, “through the green” to general area, etc.) are things I still catch myself on.

When reviewing the Rules of Golf, do you find yourself using the Rules of Golf App or the Rules of Golf book?

IAN: I typically use the Rules of Golf app on my iPhone.

AMY: I tend to use the Rules of Golf app a lot more because it is easier to search what you are looking for than having to find it in the book.

KEVIN: I’ll always fall back on the book when making a ruling, but the app does a great job as well. It’s nice to have it while I’m out on the course and see something that I need to quickly reference. I also promote the app to our players so they can always be aware.

JOHN: The search function with the Rules of Golf app is very handy. When comparing it to prior versions of the app, this is USGA’s most user-friendly, functional app to date.

KELLEN: I’m more old school. I prefer the Rules of Golf Book with the Interpretations inside, the Official Guide to the Rules of Golf. But, I have used the app a few different times as well.

While playing golf yourself, what change do you use the most?

IAN: Putting with the flagstick in. However, I don’t necessarily need to have it in. I say if the flagstick is in, leave it in. If it’s out, leave it out.

KEVIN: Definitely dropping from knee height. I tend to put myself in situations where taking relief and dropping are key for me to finish the hole.

AMY: I’m with Ian. I putt with the flagstick in. I also fix spike marks or any other repairable damage on my line of the play.

JOHN: I have become very comfortable dropping from knee height and using the 3 minute ball search. Looks like this offseason I should work on trying to hit the ball straighter.

KELLEN: Like Ian and Amy, for me it’s putting with the flagstick in. I’m a fast player, and I don’t think the flagstick in the hole affects a good stroke or the result of a stroke, so anything to continue to improve the game’s pace of play is good for the game and good for me.

For more on the Rules of Golf, click here.

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Just Take a Drop

Understanding the Alternative to Stroke and Distance for Ball Lost or Out of Bounds

By Jamie Wallace, USGA Rules Department

One of the most significant and talked-about changes in the new Rules of Golf for 2019 was the introduction of an alternative to stroke and distance for a ball that is lost or out of bounds. Before we go any further on this topic, however, let’s first clarify that stroke and distance is still the default in the Rules of Golf.

The alternative relief procedure is only available when the golf course or the Committee running a competition has decided to put the optional Local Rule into effect. Before using it, you should verify with the person in charge of the golf course (often the pro) or the competition as to whether or not it is in effect.

How the Local Rule Works

Let’s pretend that you just lost your tee shot or hit it out of bounds. You can take relief under the Local Rule for two penalty strokes, which means that you will be playing your fourth shot after taking your drop. This might at first seem like a harsh penalty, but it is actually comparable to what you could have achieved if you went back to play under stroke and distance.

To take relief, your first steps are to identify your ball and fairway reference points.

Ball Reference Point: For a lost ball, this is the estimated spot where your ball came to rest on the course. For a ball that went out of bounds, it is the estimated spot where it crossed the out of bounds line.

Fairway Reference Point: The nearest spot on the fairway of the hole you are playing that is the same distance from the hole as the ball reference point, or farther (if there is no equidistant fairway reference point).

From the fairway reference point, you can then measure two club-lengths farther into the fairway. You’ll take your drop within this two club-length area on the edge of the fairway most of the time. However, your relief area where you are allowed to drop is actually much larger.

Imagine one straight line starting at the hole and running through the ball reference point, and then a second straight line starting at the hole and running through the fairway reference point. Your relief area includes anywhere between those two lines but no closer to the hole than the ball reference point, plus an additional two club-lengths to the side of each of those two lines.

Some items to note relating to how this Local Rule works:

  • If your ball is lost in a penalty area, you must proceed under the penalty area relief options.


  • If you played a provisional ball, you can no longer use the relief option provided under this Local Rule.


  • If there is no fairway reference point equidistant from the ball reference point, you can use the nearest point that is farther from the hole. The term “fairway” can include a tee box or a path through the rough cut to fairway height or less.


  • For a ball that is lost or goes out of bounds behind or near the putting green, the Local Rule can still be applied.


  • This Local Rule is usually put into effect for the entire golf course, but a Committee could decide to limit it to just one or multiple specific holes.

One of the main benefits of this Local Rule is improved pace of play; it eliminates the need to walk back to the spot of the previous stroke to play under stroke and distance. Additionally, it allows golfers to play by the Rules and post a legitimate score even when they unexpectedly lose a ball or find that their ball is out of bounds.

When Should this Local Rule be Used?

Model Local Rule E-5 is recommended for use in all casual and general play. It would not be appropriate to use in competitions that are limited to highly skilled players, such as professional or elite amateur competitions.

There is some room for judgment here as there are certain types of club-level competitions where the Local Rule might be appropriate to use. It is up to the Committee in charge of that competition or golf course to make that decision.

At the club level, it is important to note that a golf course may have Local Rule E-5 in effect for general play, but then decide to not have it in effect for the Club Championship or other tournaments. When this is the case, all players in that specific competition should be made aware of this change before play begins.

So the next time you tee it up, whether in a casual round with friends or in a competition, be sure to check if this optional Local Rule providing an alternative to stroke and distance is in effect. It may just help to keep your round rolling along at a good pace!

For more on the Rules of Golf, visit the TGA Rules Hub.

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What to Do When You Accidentally Move Your Ball

By Jamie Wallace, USGA Rules Department
Accidental movement of your golf ball during a round is one of many areas in the Rules that underwent a lot of player-friendly change in the new 2019 Rules. Still, some golfers may be confused about when there is a penalty, when there is not, when the ball must be replaced, or when the ball should be played from its new location. Let’s take a closer look at some of the most common ball at rest moved situations encountered during a round.
Before we dive in, it is important to know that there is still a general principle in the Rules that your ball should be played as it lies and that you should exercise caution around your ball.
Generally, you will still be penalized if you move your ball or accidentally cause it to move. However, exceptions have been made in the new Rules for some of the most common times when a ball is accidentally moved during a round.
Searching for Your Ball:
If you are in the process of searching for your ball or trying to identify a ball you have found, there is no penalty if you accidentally cause it to move. As an example, if you are looking for your ball in an area with a lot of leaves or other debris on the ground and you accidentally kick your ball, there is no penalty. Simply replace it as closely as possible to the spot that you estimate where it originally lay.
As a second example, if you find a ball in long grass, mark its location, and then accidentally bump and move that ball in the process of lifting it to identify it, there is also no penalty. Simply identify it, replace it if it is yours, and play on. This is all covered in Rule 7.4.
Player Allowed to Lift Ball or Accidental Movement While Applying a Rule:
Obviously, there is no penalty for lifting or causing your ball at rest to move if you are in a situation where the Rules allow you to lift or move your ball. For example, perhaps your ball is right in front of another player’s ball on the fringe and you need to lift your ball to allow the other player to play.
There would be no penalty for lifting that ball (after marking its spot), or even for accidentally causing your ball to move while taking reasonable actions to lift it. You will just need to replace your ball back on its original spot. Another example where there is no penalty would be accidentally moving your ball while in the process of determining your nearest point of complete relief to take a drop from a cart path.
Accidental Movement on the Putting Green:
Another case where a penalty has been removed in the new Rules is for any kind of accidental movement of your ball on the putting green. All of the following would be included as long as the movement is accidental: hitting your ball with a practice swing, moving your ball while trying to mark it, kicking your ball, dropping a club on your ball, bumping your ball with your putter in addressing it, etc.
In all of these cases, simply replace the ball and play on without penalty. This also applies to any accidental movement of a ball-marker on the putting green. This is all covered in Rule 13.1d. There was previously an optional Local Rule introduced in 2017 that similarly removed the penalty for accidental movement on the putting green. Now this principle is simply part of the Rules of Golf.
Accidental Movement Anywhere Other Than on the Putting Green:
As mentioned previously, accidental movement anywhere on the golf course other than the putting green will generally still be a penalty, unless one of the above exceptions apply. Let’s look at a few common examples. If your ball is in the fairway and you accidentally kick and move it, that will be a one-stroke penalty and the ball must be replaced on its original spot.
If you move a leaf next to your ball in the rough and that causes your ball to move, the same penalty will apply. As a final example, if you accidentally touch your ball with your club in getting ready for a stroke and that causes your ball to move, that will also be a one-stroke penalty.
Ball Moved by Opponent or Outside Influence:
So far, we have only addressed instances where you moved your own ball. Now let’s look at cases where someone or something else moves your ball. The term “outside influence” encompasses all other players in a stroke play competition as well as any person other than your opponent(s) in match play, your partner, or either of your caddies. It also includes animals.
If one of these outside influences deliberately lifts or touches your ball or accidentally causes it to move, there is no penalty to anyone. Simply estimate the spot where the ball lay, replace it, and play on.
If your opponent in match play deliberately lifts or touches your ball or causes it to move, the opponent will get one penalty stroke. You must then replace your ball, just like in all of the previously discussed scenarios. However, the same exceptions mentioned above that apply to you, the player, would also apply to the opponent. For example, if your opponent moves your ball while searching for it or moves it accidentally on the putting green, there would be no penalty.
An additional exception to penalty would be if your opponent marks and lifts your ball on the green by mistake.
Movement by Natural Forces:
The Rules also recognize “natural forces” as something that can potentially cause your ball to move. This covers the effects of nature including wind, water, and gravity. If your ball is moved by any of these natural forces, there is no penalty and you will generally just play your ball from its new location.
The one exception to that is on the putting green. If you have already marked, lifted, and replaced your ball on the putting green and it then moves to a new location due to something like wind or gravity, you will replace that ball on its original spot.
Natural forces are essentially the default cause of movement under the Rules. If it is not clear that you, your opponent, or an outside influence caused your ball to move, that movement will be attributed to natural forces.
The major difference between the previous Rules and the new Rules when it comes to a ball at rest moved is the number of player-friendly exceptions to penalty that now exist. As a player, you should still be careful around your ball as there are numerous times when moving it will still result in a penalty. However, many of the ball moved situations that occur most frequently during a round now do not include any penalty.
For more on the Rules of Golf, click here.

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USGA Backs the Art of Green Reading

One of the modifications to the Rules Golf made by the USGA and R&A that went into effect on Jan. 1 was a limit on the use of green-reading materials. The new interpretation of Rule 4.3 (“Use of Equipment”) reaffirms the governing bodies’ view that the ability of golfers to read greens using their own judgment is an essential skill that should be maintained. The new Rule also defines how such materials may be used.
In short, the proliferation of green-reading books was turning the game into more of a science than art and skill. Golf is a challenging game in which success should depend on the judgment, skills and abilities of the player. The USGA and R&A agree that a player’s ability to read greens using their own senses is an art and a skill. It’s part of the spirit of the game.
The new interpretation limits the size and scale of detailed putting-green maps and any similar electronic or digital materials that a player may use during a round to assist with reading his or her line of play on the putting green.
“These latest modifications provide very practical changes that make the interpretation easier to understand and apply in the field,” said Thomas Pagel, USGA senior managing director of governance. “We’re thankful for everyone’s willingness to provide feedback as we worked through the process of identifying a clear interpretation that protects the essential skill of reading a green, while still allowing for information that helps golfers enjoy the game.”
Golfers may continue to use putting-green maps or other green-reading information, except that:
• Any image of a putting green must be limited to a scale of âÂÂ…ÂÂœ-inch to 5 yards (1:480) or smaller (the “scale limit”).
• Any book or other paper containing a map or image of a putting green must not be larger than 4¼ inches x 7 inches (the “size limit”), although a “hole location sheet” that displays nine or more holes on a single sheet of paper may be larger, provided that any image of a single putting green meets the scale limit.
• No magnification of putting-green information is allowed other than a player’s normal wearing of prescription glasses or lenses.
• Hand-drawn or written information about a putting green is only allowed if contained in a book or paper meeting the size limit and written by the player and/or his or her caddie.
The final interpretation also clearly defines that any use of electronic or digital putting-green maps must comply with the same limits. A player is still in breach of Rule 4.3 if the player uses any device not consistent with the purpose of the limits, including:
• Increasing the size of the green’s representation beyond the scale or size limits.
• Producing a recommended line of play based on the location (or estimated location) of the player’s ball [see Rule 4.3a(1)].
Some of the changes made to the original proposal following the feedback period include the removal of: (1) the proposed minimum slope indication limit of 4% and (2) the prohibition against using handwritten notes to create a copy or facsimile of a detailed green map.
Additions to the original proposal include: (1) a new size limit for the printed book/material (restricted to pocket-size), (2) a new prohibition against magnification of putting green information and (3) a new requirement that that any hand-drawn or written information must be in a book or on a paper meeting the size limit and must be written by the player and/or his or her caddie.
So, what does that mean for the Texas golfer? The limitations apply when any stroke a player makes from the putting green and when a stroke is made with a putter from anywhere when the player’s intention is for the ball to come to rest on the putting green. If you plan on using green reading materials to help your game, you need to ensure that your yardage books with green images and green reading materials conform to the interpretation for Rule 4.3.
How do you know if your materials meet the limitations? Please reference the infographic below. Also, if you are playing in a TGA competition, the TGA Rules Committee would be happy to help you measure your materials before you tee off.
To view the Green-Reading Materials infographic, click here. [LIINK “click here” to:]
The USGA and The R&A will continue to evaluate the future development and use of green-reading materials, as they ascertain the impact of the new interpretation to see if further modifications are necessary.

Around the Green

The latest golf-related news, notes, and feature stories from the TGA.

TGA Announces USGA Rules Seminars

DALLAS – The Texas Golf Association will conduct a series of educational seminars on the modernized USGA Rules of Golf in October and November for TGA Volunteers and members of the North and South Texas PGA Sections.
To be held in Houston, Dallas and the Hill Country, these new Rules sessions will take place prior to the PGA/USGA Rules School dates for Dallas on Nov. 16-19.
The intent of the TGA Rules Seminars is to develop an understanding of the major changes of the Rules of Golf that will go into effect Jan. 1, 2019. The program will be comprised of classroom lectures through the use of Microsoft Power Point slide presentations.
Following the lecture, attendees will have the opportunity to become certified on the new Rules of Golf. The TGA has the ability to administer the 80-question advanced exam. By achieving a score of 70 out of 80 or higher, individuals will earn the “Advanced” Rules Certification with the PGA and USGA.
The first TGA Rules Seminar is scheduled for Oct. 8 in Houston. Dates for sessions in Dallas and the Hill Country, as well as more details, will follow soon. Please visit to keep updated.
For more information on the major changes to the Rules of Golf, click here.