A spike mark, foot drag or heel dent will no longer block a player’s putting path to the hole in 2019.
But diseased areas and “naturally” worn bare spots still will.
In the past, random disruptions to the smoothness of the putting surface made by another player could not be repaired by rule. But with the 2019 changes, repair is allowed for all types of player-caused or unnatural damage: ball-marks, shoe damage, indentations from a club or flag stick, animal damage, etc.
Unfortunately, the USGA did not simply say ALL DAMAGE could be repaired — which would have eliminated the need for green surface evaluations / reviews / questions. In 2019, players still may not fix aeration holes, natural surface imperfections (like diseased areas or bare spots) or natural wear of the hole.
The USGA’s concern was that allowing the repair of all damage on the putting green could slow down play if players try to repair too many areas.
But might the time it takes to evaluate if green damage is “natural” or “player-caused” be equal to the time it takes to just fix everything?