The New Rules and Taking Relief

By now you’re aware that you can leave the flagstick in while you putt (and you should!), but there are a lot of other new rules the USGA has adopted to simplify and speed up the game. This week we’re going to look at one of the most important (and often confusing) aspects of golf: taking relief and how it has changed in 2019. Read on!


This video will explain the new Relief Area better than I can, so here goes:

Just remember, whenever you drop the ball must come to rest in that relief area, otherwise you re-dropIf you drop twice and the ball rolls out, then you may place it.


OK, let’s get this one out of the way quickly. THE OUT OF BOUNDS RULE HAS NOT CHANGED. If you blow one out onto Spring Creek Road on hole 2, you must take the stroke-and-distance penalty and drop or re-tee from the previous spot (you do have an expanded Relief Area now, see above).

There is now an option for committees (and courses) to adopt a LOCAL RULE that allows players to drop after hitting the ball OB. You will not see this option in any big tournaments on any tours, but it may come into play during casual rounds at certain courses. Regardless, it’s good to know the rule, because it can give you a huge advantage if it’s adopted at the course/event you’re playing. Here’s another video:


OK, here’s the meat and potatoes. First of all, there are no more water hazards (well, there are, but they’re not called that). Courses and committees can now decide to make anywhere a PENALTY AREA, which are played very much like water hazards used to be. Think of the left side of hole 14. We weren’t able to make this a “hazard” in previous years because that area didn’t hold water. Now, we can (not that we will!). PENALTY AREAS will still be marked by yellow or red stakes or lines (or the area itself can act as a marker). You may now also ground your club in a PENALTY AREA. Here’s a video:

We don’t have to deal with “hazards” and “lateral hazards” anymore, so you’re probably going to see almost every penalty area marked red (to offer the two-club length rule). The “equidistant” rule no longer exists except as a local rule (you probably rarely used it anyway).


Similar rules apply here, with the new RELIEF AREA in effect. Here you go again:


Another similar rule, but a good refresher:

One last one: you may now replace your ball with a ball of your choosing anytime you’re taking relief. Now you can get rid of that unlucky ball you topped into the hazard and reload a winner. Hopefully this gives you a good idea of how to take relief in 2019. The rules have really been simplified, and  in my humble opinion the USGA has done a fantastic job. We’re always available if you have any questions, and happy golfing!