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New Year, New Rules! Plus Best Way to Get Answers Fast When You Don’t Know What To Do

“You can’t do that”

Saying those words to your partner or a competitor never feels comfortable.  Whether you are the one speaking them or hearing them, even if you are trying to be helpful, they just create tension or hard feelings.  Not to mention that it’s difficult trying to recover and/or maintain composure after a rules issue has arisen in your group during a tournament.  

The best way to avoid this is to be prepared by knowing the rules.  As of January 1, 2023, a few of the rules have been updated.   You can print this infographic for ease and send it to your league.  After reviewing what changes I can find, two in particular seem noteworthy.  I will get into more detail about them below.  

I’m sure we’ve all been in the position to call or be called on a potential rules violation.  How good are you at the rules?  It seems the rules I know best are the ones I’ve had my understanding of called into question.  They say you never forget a rule once you’ve had an issue with it.  True. True!  

So have you taken the time to read up and become fairly (I say that loosely since I believe it’s hard to really know all the rules of golf) knowledgeable?  Did you know that the PGA, in conjunction with the USGA, conducts Rules of Golf Workshops and Exams.  In fact, they are staging them now and they will continue through March of 2023 in locations across the U.S.  These are 3-1/2 day seminars with a test that follows for certification in the rules.  How nice would it be to have a good understanding of the rules and how to apply them??

USGA Rules app

Did you also know that the USGA has an app so you can easily look up a definition or situation on your phone?  Make sure you download the app today.  That’s important because it always seems that if there was an issue and we had to call the pro shop, we could never reach anyone in a timely fashion.  And, who really wants to play two balls when something is in question.  Hence, I believe the USGA app will definitely help you.  Also, many of us used to get a free rule book from our club or group in the past.  But, the USGA has announced the updated rules book is going to be digital only as of 2023. That saves the printing of literally like one billion pages, it’s been reported. (As winter closes down courses and you spend more time looking out the window and less outside, you can go to the app and take quizzes on the rules.  I have started doing this— they’re hard but fun.)

In the meantime, here are a two rules changes likely to affect your play that effective January 1.

Ball Moved by Natural Forces

Ricky Fowler’s ball rolling back into water. 

This is a big one.  Remember the Rickie Fowler incident at the Waste Management Open several years ago?  He made a proper drop near the edge of the water, walked up to the edge of the green to check out his line one more time, and while walking back down the bank, he watched his ball roll back into the water. He had to take another penalty— Rickie Fowler made a bizarre triple bogey. 

Per Golf Digest “Rules are rules. And as currently written, those are the breaks: A ball that moves due to natural forces (think, wind or in Fowler’s case gravity) is played as it lies (except on the green, where it is replaced). If it happens to lie in the water or out of bounds when its done moving, tough luck. The player’s only option is to take (penalty) relief. Come January, that rule will change. Under a new exception, a ball that rolls to another area of the course (Fowler’s went from the general area into a penalty area) or comes to rest out of bounds will be put back where it was before natural forces moved it. No penalty.”

Taking Back-On-Line Relief

When you knock a ball into a penalty area or an unplayable spot, one of your options for your drop is known as back-on-line relief. And the procedure for it can get complicated and time-consuming. (Back-on-line means you keep the point where your ball was between you and the hole and go back as far as you want on a straight line.)  Come January, your ball merely must come to rest within one club-length of where you drop it on the line going straight back. 

As I said earlier, no one knows all of the rules. Even experienced certified rules officials I know admit it. That’s why you often see them call in another official on TV in a sticky situation.  The rules book and interpretations currently is 522 pages (my husband read it after his back surgery and now uses it to fall asleep).  Gaining a better understanding of the most commonly confronted rules will help you avoid having to say or hearing someone say “You can’t do that.”

Thanks for tuning in.  If you find yourself digging my blog, please feel free to forward it to a friend who might also enjoy it.  As always, I would love to hear from you — feel free to shoot me an email to with any questions, comments or suggestions for future posts.

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