Golf rules have a different look in 2019

With spring weather comes golf season, and this year’s a little different than most. There are several rule changes this year that, if you don’t get out too often you might not even know about.

“They made an aggressive move to make the game a little bit more simple for the user, to more modernize the game and make it play a little bit faster, which is a couple of the knocks against the game of golf,” said Brian Tolnar, the PGA golf and recreation director at Mill Creek MetroParks. 

The most noticeable change for 2019 is that you can now putt with the pin still in the cup.

“Now it’s just a routine part of finishing out the hole,” said Tolnar.

It’s not the only difference on the putting green; you can now tap down spike marks and get a do-over if your practice putt gets a little too cozy with the ball.

“I’m practicing my putting stroke… I accidentally hit the ball. I wasn’t attempting to make the putt. The ball was outside my line of putt. Now I can return that ball back to the spot where it was at under no penalty,” said Tolnar.

In the bunker, you can escape a bad lie and take a drop with a two-shot penalty. You can also clean up a little if there is a twig or leaf sitting right next to your ball.

“Now we have the option to remove loose impediments. Unlike years past, we’d have to hit the shot the way it was sitting in the bunker… Now you get to have the to option of removing those,” said Tolnar.

Let’s say your tee shot flies into the woods. Instead of a one-stroke penalty and another tee shot, which could very well land in the same place, you can now take a two shot penalty and just drop it in the fairway.

As for the way you drop the ball, even that has changed. With the new rules, you will drop the ball from knee height instead of from the shoulder.

“We first started with dropping over our back many many years ago, to shoulder length, to now we’re going to drop at knee height,” said Tolnar.

One of the rule changes you’ll quickly become familiar with if you tend to hit the ball into the woods is how long you have to look around for a lost ball. It used to be five minutes. Now you only have three.

Tolnar says when you add all these little changes together it makes the game faster and ideally more appealing for the next generation.

“Change is a great thing. Especially if you think about the era that you grew up as a kid, it’s completely different than the era that we’re in now. It’s more fast-paced,” said Tolnar. “I think it certainly makes the game more modern. It makes the game more friendly from a playing component and easy to learn and easy to know.”

Mill Creek is part of this push to make the game more appealing with its “Let’s Play Golf Youngstown” initiative. They have special deals and programs for kids and families, trying to get more people into the game of golf. You can learn more on the Mill Creek Golf Course website. 

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