It was a full house in the main banquet hall of Westwood Country Club in Rocky River, as over 150 pre-registered “rules geeks” sat for a seminar by the Northern Ohio Golf Association on the upcoming changes to the USGA’s 2019 Rules of Golf.

2019 NOGA rules seminar audience

NOGA hosted the event in conjunction with the Northern Ohio PGA and the Toledo District Golf Association. The TDGA’s Jerry Lemieux made the presentation, which moved quickly and kept the room’s interest. Plenty of intelligent Q-&-A from the crowd further clarified much of the nearly five-hour discussion.

NOGA's Robb Schulze
NOGA’s Robb Schulze kicks off the 2019 Rules of Golf Seminar at Westwood CC.

A number of significant changes are coming to the Rules starting January 1st. Over the course of January and February, Northeast Ohio Golf will go over many of these changes one-by-one, in enough detail to get everyone ready for next season. But it’s likely going to take awhile for players to get used to many of these revisions, as the changes are markedly different from how things have been done for years.

Below are a couple of the semi-surprises — i.e. items not discussed too much in the golf media to date — from today’s rules seminar:

– The 2019 rules truly encourage “ready golf”. So long as there is no one standing in your line of play and you are ready to hit, do it. That includes jumping an empty box on the teeing ground in stroke play (in match play, honors hold unless you ask). Of course you’ll want to be courteous to all of the players in your group when you hit, but play away.

– As discussed in a story a few weeks back, water hazards and other areas of the course where a player is unlikely to find his ball now can be marked with red stakes, and both will be called “penalty areas”. But it’s going to take awhile to get used to the idea that a water-hazard penalty area can be treated like the rest of the course should you choose to play your ball from within: loose impediments can be moved, the club can be grounded, and practice swings can be taken within the hazard.

– Unless you have chimpanzee arms, get ready to do this odd-looking scrunch-down thing when you take a drop, as the ball MUST be dropped from knee heighth.

– Oddly, you can now swap out your ball any time you take a drop; you don’t have to continue using the same ball to drop from a hazard or cart path. But you can’t take what used to be considered a damaged ball out of play unless it is seriously cut or cracked — and cart path scrapes or being out-of-round no longer count.

– Nixed rules phrases for 2019: ground under repair (now “abnormal course conditions”); through the green (now “general area”); casual water (now “temporary water”); margin of the hazard (now “edge”).

Check Northeast Ohio Golf throughout the winter months for a simplified breakdown of the 2019 rules changes ahead.

Kudos to NOGA for organizing this free event. And the Westwood chef’s lunch, delicious…

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