Golf rules have changed in 2019, and many for the better. Dropping balls at knee height, repairing any damage or spikemarks on the green, and grounding a club in a water hazard to name just three. But there's another big one where provisional balls are concerned...
Following the launch of the R&A and USGA's new 'Player's Edition' of the rules, one of the big talking points since is "are provisional balls really going out the game?"
In short, potentially.
A new local rule has become available in 2019 that allows golfers to drop in the area of where the ball is lost or out of bounds under a two-stroke penalty.
In essence, if you send your ball OB right off the tee, you will walk to the point of entry where the ball went out of bounds and drop your ball - from knee height - to the nearest edge of the fairway and play your FOURTH shot from there.
The issue, however, is that this IS a local rule - so it is down to club committees to decide whether they want to use it.
ALWAYS make sure you check out the golf club's noticeboard, where this particular rule will be made clear. If it's not, then you will want to check - especially if you're playing an away game.
This rule will not come into play for elite amateurs and professionals, however, so don't expect to see provisional balls disappearing for good on the PGA Tour and European Tour.
It's just a local rule being brought to the table in a bid to help speed up the game for us average hacks, and save us trudging back to the tee.
Other big improvements to golf's rules, as we touched on earlier, include dropping the ball at knee height, grounding a club in a water hazard, no penalty for a double hit, no longer having to attend the flagstick or remove the flagstick when on the green, and three minutes instead of five to look for a lost ball.
On the topic of grounding a club in the hazard, this does not include bunkers - so you must still go about bunker shots as normal. You can, however, remove loose impediments in the bunker and you will not be penalised for generally grounding the club away from the ball.