Golf Rule Change 2023
“Play the ball as it lies, play the course as you find it, and if you cannot do either, do what is fair. But to do what is fair, you must know the rules.”
The golf rules are typically revised and reissued on a regular cycle of four years. After the significant update in 2019, it is now time for another revision this year. While most changes primarily concern specific regulations, the most significant alteration has occurred in the general area rule. It is advisable to consult the official publications and announcements from golf governing bodies to obtain precise information about the new rule changes.
Golf Rules: Key Changes as of January 1, 2023.
1. Procedure for Relief Back on the Line
The updated golf rules state that the ball must be dropped on the line. The reference point for the relief area in all directions, including forward (up to one club-length), is now the spot on the ground where the dropped ball first touches. However, the original ball’s spot or the point of crossing into the penalty area still determines the distance to the hole. The ball must come to rest in the area of the course where it first touched the ground.
Image illustrating relief options in a yellow-marked penalty area
- The ball is played from “1” and crosses into the boundary of the penalty area at “X”.
- The player may go back to the spot from which the last stroke was played (stroke and distance penalty – Rule 14.6) – Point 1
- Relief on the line back – Go back on the line and keep the point of crossing the ball with the penalty area on a line with the flagstick – Point 2
2. Ball at Rest Moved by Natural Forces after Relief
If the ball at rest, after taking relief, is moved by a gust of wind or gravity and comes to rest in another area of the course, the ball must be repositioned without penalty.
(also known as the “Rickie Fowler Rule” following his incident at the 2019 Phoenix Open)
3. Penalties in Stableford
Penalties related to clubs, starting times, and undue delay are to be applied on each hole (following the stroke play regulations). Previously, these penalties were deducted from the overall net score. A hole can never have fewer than zero points.
4. Indicating Handicap on the Scorecard
The committee is responsible for calculating handicap strokes and determining the net score based on them. However, it is still the player’s responsibility to inform the committee if their handicap was not calculated based on all played results.
The penalty for an unauthorized ball substitution has been reduced from two strokes to one stroke.
6. Replacement of Damaged Clubs
If a club is damaged during the round (except through abuse), it may be replaced, repaired, or continued to be used.
7. Changes for Players with Disabilities
The relevant adjustments for players with disabilities have now been incorporated into Rule 25. These adjustments automatically apply to all tournaments, including all rounds played.