Welcome to 2023 and what we trust will be a very happy golfing year!


During 2022 we started to look at the various relief options available to a player when finding the ball in a difficult situation and we especially touched on all the free relief options. These relief situations are contained mainly in Rules 15 – 19 and in our last article we began to dissect Rule 16, which gives free relief when confronted by any Abnormal Course Condition.

January changes

We have looked at all the different scenarios (Animal Hole, Ground Under Repair, Immovable Obstruction, Temporary Water) and now need to emphasise the finding of the Nearest Point of Complete Relief, the measurement of the relief area and how to drop within that area (all described in Rule 14), but we will take a break from this discussion to look at the changes that were made to the Rules of Golf with effect from 1 January this year.

Why are there suddenly changes to the (new) Rules of Golf

And how does it affect me when playing a round at my local club?

The last huge changes to the Rules of Golf were made in 2019 and it resulted in simplified actions (all relief areas standardised) and also brought about situations where there are no penalties to a player for accidentally moving a ball (on putting green – just replace it on the spot; when searching for a ball, etc).

Too many possibilities
I have enjoyed playing under and refereeing the new Rules as it definitely speeds up the game and also help to get rid of bizarre situations (remember the tv replays to establish what happened). However, although it took 5 years to completely rewrite the Rules, it was soon evident that the authors could not think of every singly practical possibility that can occur on a course. That is why we saw “Clarifications” issued each term (to explain what is meant by a Rule and how it should be applied) and the introduction of additional Model Local Rules to address situations. Examples were the whole debate on when is a caddy standing behind a player when she addresses her ball; the replacement of a broken club brought in with a local rule; when ball played on putting green hits an object; etc.

The changes to the Rules of Golf with effect 1 January 2023 thus had one main objective, namely to incorporate many of the clarifications and additional model local rules into the rules itself so that it is now part of the rules applicable to everyone without a committee needing to add it as model local rules at the club. However, the R&A and USGA, as writers of the Rules, also used the opportunity to make a few significant changes to the Rules. I urge you to take a look at all the changes (go to Rules at, but I want to highlight those changes here which may affect the club player the most.