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2019 rules to know: A new stroke and distance alternative

December 20, 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: Alternatives to stroke and distance for OB

The Old Rule: The previous Local Rule required that golfers take stroke-and-distance relief for balls that are lost outside a penalty area or out of bounds. There was no other option available.

The New Rule: A new Local Rule will provide golfers with an alternative to stroke-and-distance relief for balls that are lost outside a penalty area or out of bounds. Stroke-and-distance relief will still be available to golfers, but it’s not the only option now for penalties of two strokes. First, figure out where your ball went out of bounds or is likely to be lost. Then, find the nearest fairway edge. Lastly, drop your ball in a relief area between the two points defined above.

Why It Was Changed: Other than providing another option for golfers, slow play issues can result from players taking stroke-and-distance relief for lost or out-of-bounds balls. Therefore, the goal of the new rule is keep up the pace of play by not forcing golfers to have to return to the location of the previous stroke.

Will It Be Controversial?: It shouldn’t be. Anything that speeds up pace of play and limits slow play is going to garner strong approval from golfers. The relief is comparable to what would be provided if the player chose stroke-and-distance, so it won’t necessarily provide one with an advantage over his or her competitor. Also, this isn’t a rule you’ll see used on the Tour. Therefore, the stakes and controversies that could emerge will be minimal to what they could be if it were implemented for the Tour.

How It Can Help You: First, this rule was not created for high levels of play such as professional or elite amateur level events. This rule is intended for a day at your local muni playing with your friends. Secondly, it gives you another option, besides stroke-and-distance relief, to recover and save face after a two-stroke penalty during a round.