Here's an explainer on the Local Rules changes that have come into play for 2019...
New Golf Rules Explained: Local Rules
One interesting result of the 2019 Rules revisions is a permissible new Local Rules that will provide an alternative to stroke and distance for a ball that is either lost or out of bounds.
Here’s how it would work where adopted…
If your ball is lost or out of bounds, find an equidistant point on the edge of the fairway (your ‘fairway reference point’) to where you believe your ball is either lost or went out of bounds (your ‘ball reference point’) and then drop somewhere between the two, with a further two club lengths’ leeway (either side for a lost ball) under penalty of two strokes.
If it were your tee shot that went out of bounds, you would be playing four from there, just as you would if you had hit your provisional ball to the same spot.
However, there are a number of important points to bear in mind:
1) Many people who currently play such a ‘Rule’ informally will typically only regard it as a one-shot penalty, but the penalty under this new Local Rule will be two strokes.
2) Even when this Local Rule is in force, you may still choose to hit a provisional. But if you do, the above alternative won’t be available.
3) It is only a Local Rule option, so check if your home club will be adopting it. Even if they do, it won’t always be an option when playing away matches of competitions.
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From Local Rule to Rule
From 2019, three things currently only permissible via Local Rule have become Rules of Golf, so Local Rules are no longer be required for…
1) Removing stones in bunkers – With the 2019 Rules now allowing the removal of loose impediments in bunkers, Local Rules allowing the removal of stones will no longer be required. A note of caution, though: you will still be penalised if your ball moves when you’re removing a loose impediment from a bunker.
2) Embedded ball relief away from closely mown area – Unless a Local Rule is in force, free relief for embedded balls is currently restricted to closely mown areas. From 2019, such free relief will be available anywhere in the ‘general area’ (currently known as ‘through the green’), other than when embedded in sand. Clubs may still limit it to areas cut to fairway heigh or less via Local Rules, but we doubt many will.
3) Use of Distance Measuring Devices (DMDs) – They may now be almost universal, but at the moment DMDs are still only permitted via Local Rule. That will change in 2019, although clubs may still choose to outlaw them via Local Rule (again, we doubt many will!).
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