New golf rules for 2023

The R&A and USGA have made changes to the laws of the game in the 2023 Rules of Golf that will affect professional players and the everyday club golfer. Here are the major changes.

The last time the two governing bodies made changes was in 2019 when changing the drop procedure from shoulder to knee high was among the major rules alterations, along with removing penalties for accidentally moving your ball on the green and reducing the search time for a ball from five to three minutes.

The Rules of Golf are refined every four years and are a set of standard rules and procedures by which the sport of golf should be played. They are jointly written and maintained by the Royal & Ancient Golf Club of St. Andrews, the governing body for golf worldwide, outside of the United States and Mexico, which are governed by the United States Golf Association.

The new 2023 changes are to make the game more simple and to move with the times as more and more players use app and online scoring technology. The new rule additions, first announced in November, came into effect on January 1. Here are the standout changes.

No penalties for failing to put your handicap on your scorecard

Not putting your handicap or your correct handicap on your scorecard when playing in a stroke-play competition used to mean disqualification. Now, a new amendment means you are no longer required to show your handicap on your scorecard.

Committees will now be responsible for the accuracy of each player’s handicap and calculating it for the competition. This rule change was made to keep up to date with and promote new app and online score-posting technology.

You can now replace a damaged club

This now allows players to replace a club that is damaged during a round – with the proviso that the club was not damaged by the player on purpose, for example by losing your temper after missing a three-foot putt! But if you accidentally dent the face of your driver or bend a shaft for example, you can now fix or replace this club.

You can replace a ball moved by natural forces

If your ball is at rest after being dropped, placed or replaced and then natural forces make it roll to another area of the course, it must now be replaced and you won’t get a penalty. This rule comes into effect if your ball rolls into a penalty area, into a bunker, onto a putting green or out of bounds after it has been dropped.

Taking back-on-the-line relief has been simplified

Back-on-the-line relief allows you to drop your ball back on a straight line from the hole through the spot where the ball lies. It’s an option for an unplayable ball and for relief from penalty areas. Once you drop your ball on the line, it is now allowed to roll up to one club-length in any direction from that spot – including closer to the hole!

You can’t replay your stroke if your ball hits a loose object on the green

Previously, when your ball played from the putting green accidentally hit any person, animal, or movable object on the green, that stroke didn’t count. That rule has now been amended so that stroke now counts and the ball is subsequently played as it lies.

Changes for players with disabilities

The current rules make a number of accommodations for players with disabilities, but these are treated as local rules that committees can enact. Now, those accommodations will become part of the Rules of Golf, meaning that they will always be in effect for all players with disabilities covered in the guidelines, so there’s no need to have a local committee enact them.

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