A little over five years ago, golf's governing bodies embarked on a journey to modernise the rules of the sport.
Their aims were to make the game less complicated and increase the speed of play. Now, those rules have come into effect.
Do you know them all? Sports reporter Michael O'Keeffe has highlighted the top ten that might impact on your game this weekend.
1. Dropping the ball from knee height instead of shoulder height
It's probably the change that's set to be used the most. Whenever you lose a ball, hit it out of bounds, into a hazard or are taking relief in any way you're now required to drop the ball from knee height instead of shoulder height. This was introduced to decrease the likelihood of needing to drop your ball again (because it has bounced outside of the relief area) while maintaining the integrity of producing an uncontrolled lie.
2. Putting with the flagstick in
Before this new rule change came into effect if your ball hit the flag stick while you were on the green it would have cost you a two stroke penalty. Now you're free to do it whenever you like. Already we've seen players on the PGA Tour experiment with putting with the pin in the hole but so far most have opted to keep it out. Now, you just get the choice.
3. Reduced time when looking for your ball
One of the main reasons for the new rules is to increase speed of play and this new rule certainly does that. Players are now only three minutes to look for their ball before it is deemed lost as opposed to the old rule of five minutes. While this might impact the pro players more, it will give amateurs the chance to speed up their cheap mate who refuses to concede his ball is lost just because he doesn’t want to buy some new balls.
4. Repair damage on green before you putt
This was pro Michael Hendry's favourite addition to the 2019 rules. Players can now repair any damage that might be on their line before they putt. At tournaments hundreds of feet have walked around the hole by the end of the day. Hendry believed previously they were being unjustly penalised for no apparent reason when they weren't able to fix damage before this rule came into effect.
5. Moving loose impediments in a bunker
Not only were the previous rules complex but sometimes very odd. Not being able to move loose impediments in the bunker was an example of that. The new rules have relaxed those rules so whenever you see a leave, branch or anything else that may be in the bunker and effect your shot you can now move it. You will not be penalised for your club accidentally touching the sand. This does not mean you can ground your club in the sand or take practice shots. If you're deemed to be testing the conditions of the bunker you will still be penalised.
6. Free-drop out of bunkers if deemed unplayable
If you're not a good bunker player like myself, seeing the ball plugged into the wall of a huge bunker can make you give up then and there. Now you have an extra option to take a drop for two penalty strokes. If you deem it unplayable take it back as far as you want on the line it entered and drop the ball (from knee height). The reason why there's a two shot penalty is to not encourage this to happen all the time.
7. Accidental double hits
Under the new rules if you accidentally hit the ball twice you will not be penalised. Now this only makes sense because if you do hit the ball twice it's invariably because it was a poor shot. Can I stress the word accidentally… hitting the ball twice on purpose doesn’t count like these pro's do in this video.
8. No penalty for accidentally moving ball during search
Sometimes when you're searching for your ball in long grass you accidentally touch it and it may move. You're not penalised for this anymore. If it happens you simply replace it to it's original spot or if you're unsre where that was, to its estimated original spot. I can't stress this enough though, the foot club is still not allowed in golf!
9. Move ball on green
Much like the rule above, common sense has prevailed with the ball on the green as well. There are various reasons why a ball may move on the green. It can be blown by the win, you could accidentally drop your ball marker on it and maybe hit it with your foot or club. In all those instances you will not be penalised under the new rules. Simply replace the ball to it's original spot (or best estimate) and play on.
10. Moving impediments and grounding club in penalty areas
Previously known as water hazards, the new rules have re-termed these as penalty areas. If you want to play your ball in the penalty area you are now permitted to move any loose impediments, make practice swings and ground your club when addressing the ball. Essentially you can treat the penalty area as you would if your ball was in the fairway or the rough.
For more information on all the major rule changes, you can click here.