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2019 rules changes to know: What you can repair on the putting green

December 19, 2018

On Jan. 1, more than 30 changes to the Rules of Golf — some small, others significant — will take effect. To get you ready, this holiday season GOLF.com is rolling out a series, “The 12 Days of Rules Changes,” to ensure you always play by the rules, starting with your opening round of the year.

The Topic: Repairing damage (spike marks!) on the putting green

The Old Rule: A player may only repair ball-marks or old hole plugs on the putting green.

The New Rule: Golfers are now allowed to repair almost any damage on the green, such as spike marks, ball-marks, indentations from a club or flagstick, and animal damage. They are not permitted to repair aeration holes, natural surface imperfections, or natural wear of the hole.

Why It Was Changed: Putting greens are designed for playing the ball along the ground, which can’t be done anywhere else on the course. Because golfers need to have as smooth of a surface as possible to putt, the USGA believed that players should not be prohibited from repairing other types of damage on the green.

Will It Be Controversial?: Allowing the repair of all damage on the putting green could lead to every golfer’s worst nightmare: slow play. If players try to repair too many areas, play could slow down. But according to the USGA, slow play rules should mitigate any risk of players making excessive repairs on the green and can guard against it becoming an issue.

How It Can Help You: First and foremost, the new rule clears up uncertainty over what type of damage on a putting green can or cannot be repaired. Secondly, a smoother green that allows golfers to make almost all repairs will help improve your putting. Any rule or initiative that can help your short game is sure to be welcomed and applauded by golfers.