Several things are changing on the shortest grass from 2019. Here's a summary...
New Golf Rules Explained: Putting Green
Below we explain the changes that will come into play for 2019 on the putting green, including putting with the flagstick in, repairing damage on the green, your golf ball moving on the green and more…
Putting with the flagstick in
If you putt from on the green and the ball strikes the unattended flagstick in the hole, you will be penalised.
There will be no penalty stroke if a ball played from the green strikes the flagstick in the hole.
A number of factors have contributed to this change, not least the potential to speed up play and reduce wear and tear around the hole, especially during the off-season.
Being able to putt to an unattended flagstick should also put an end to that slightly awkward scenario when your opponent or fellow competitor is attending the flagstick for you and accidentally allows your ball to strike it, resulting in you incurring a penalty.
Ball moved on the green
If you, your partner or your caddie accidentally cause your ball to move anywhere on the course, you will be penalised.
You will no longer be penalised if such accidental movement occurs on the green, something already available via Local Rule since 2017.
The ever-better quality and speed of today’s greens has increased the chance of balls moving, and often when a player has accidentally moved or touched the ball.
With such movements usually small and the ball easily replaced, any penalty seems unduly harsh.
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Repairing damage on the green
The only damage you can repair is pitch-marks and old hole plugs, whether your ball is on or off the green.
You will also be able to repair wider damage, including shoe damage (spike marks), animal damage and indentations made by a club or flagstick.
This should reduce the need for deliberations about what has caused any damage.
It should also eliminate that slight tension between not being allowed to tap down spike marks before you putt, but being encouraged to do so afterwards, thus benefiting everyone but yourself!
Hopefully it won’t slow play down too much, especially as spike marks aren’t as prevalent as they were in the days when metal spikes were commonplace.
Touching the line of play on the green
You are currently prohibited from touching your line of putt, other than when removing loose impediments or movable obstructions, repairing pitch-marks or marking your ball.
There will no longer be a penalty for merely touching your line of play on the green, as long as you do nothing to improve it.
Merely touching the line of play gives you no advantage, and it can be argued that brushing leaves from your line with your putter is more likely to have an impact.
The end of a harsh penalty for something that brought no discernible benefit.
Replacing a ball on the green moved by wind, water or other natural forces
You must always play from the ball’s new spot, even if you had previously marked, lifted and replaced it
Once you have marked, lifted and replaced your ball that represents a ‘stop’ point.
If it then moves after you replace it, you must replace it on that spot.
This will see an end to those anomalies in high winds, where one minute you had a 12ft birdie putt and the next your ball had rolled off the green, or even perhaps into the hole, in which case you would be deemed to have holed out with your previous stroke.
This seems much more fair and sensible.