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As we all know, this game we all love can take quite some time to play. we have all experienced past rounds when more than five hours seemed like a never ending challenge to our sanity and desire to play this game.

With that in mind, the USGA has adopted several new rules for this year, aimed at making rounds play faster...

The following is a short synopsis of those changes that The Golf Club at Lake Ridge will adopt to further that effort:

2019 USGA Rule Changes and The Golf Club at Lake Ridge

If you watched any PGA events on TV, you know the USGA has some new rules that have taken effect in 2019.

The most obvious change allows us to leave the flag in the hole while you’re putting. This is a ‘speed up play’, initiative by the USGA, which also strongly recommends people play ‘ready golf.’ So if you’re far from the hole, you don’t have to waste time walking up to get the flag or waiting for someone else to do it. Now, if someone wants it removed, they have that privilege; and it’s PROBABLY a good idea to take it out when everyone’s fairly close to the hole to avoid the stick deflecting the ball OUT of the hole.

One change you’ll like has to do with a ball hit out of bounds. We drop at the point the ball went out of bounds with a one stroke penalty, different than the USGA’s two stroke penalty. We’ll stay with the only-one-stroke penalty BUT the part of the new rule which we WILL adopt calls for the drop being taken halfway between the point where the ball went out of bounds (or is lost against a boundary fence – i.e. holes 1 or 2) and the edge of the fairway.

That’s a welcome relief, if you’ll pardon the pun, from dropping a club length from the OOB line.

There is no longer a penalty for moving the ball accidentally on the green or on the course. While we generally didn’t enforce this, now it’s not a penalty of any kind anywhere EXCEPT in a hazard.

This one is cool but also requires you understand you can’t abuse it. In the past, if you hit your ball and it bounced off of something and hit you or the infamous ‘double hit,’ you were supposed to add a stroke penalty in addition to the stroke taken. Now, the USGA says there is no penalty if your shot ends up hitting you, or your cart, or someone else’s cart, or a club on the ground or anything. HOWEVER, you CANNOT abuse this rule by ‘accidentally’ leaving clubs behind the hole or somewhere where you’d gain an advantage by having your ball stopped.

That’s a penalty and it would be pretty damn obvious if someone does that.

You’ve probably seen players taking drops from knee level; this replaces the drop from shoulder level rule.

Also, the USGA is calling for a reduction of the time spent looking for a lost ball from five minutes to three minutes. Basically, if you can’t see it right away in a spot where it can be played, why bother looking for it in the trees? Save some time and drop in a reasonable area, then play on. This also is a ‘speed up the game’ initiative.

You now get relief from an embedded lie ANYWHERE on the course EXCEPT in a bunker or a hazard. No penalty!

Take the ball out and drop it (from knee level). This should avoid injuries, plus speed up the game.

Knowing how EVERYONE goes out of their way to clean up the greens on the course, the USGA is finally allowing everyone to repair of ALL damage on the green, including cleat marks, not only ball marks.

Amen and hallelujah, you can now move loose impediments in the bunker and hazards, so people don’t get killed by flying rocks and debris. Also, although I don’t foresee too many people doing this, you CAN now take an ‘unplayable lie’ in a bunker and drop BEHIND the bunker … but the penalty is TWO strokes.

Finally, the Golf Club at Lake Ridge will continue with the “Equitable Stroke Control” limits used for handicapping purposes. Our Handicap Chairman will administer that function through our computerized system. While on the course, however, we should all strive to record EVERY shot taken… make an effort to keep fair play in mind and record accurate scores for each hole played. Remember… strive to “Speed up the Game”, but play fair!

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