New Golf Rules 2023

Wisdom Wednesday - New Rules of Golf 2023


Wisdom Wednesday – Episode 2

In the second Wisdom Wednesday of the series, we look at the changes to the rules of golf.

“The growing popularity of golf continues to guide our decision-making and modernising the Rules to promote inclusivity and accessibility is clearly a great step in the right direction”

Thomas Pagel, USGA Chief Governance Officer

The new golf rules for 2023 are additions & changes that once again seem to be driven by a desire to improve the modern game. Something I’ve noticed more recently, and I love, is that the powers that be (USGA and R&A) are keen, with almost every rule, to modernise the game of golf.

In the 2019 the rules changed to allow a golfer to putt with the flag in, drop from knee height and repair spike marks, to name a just few. Once again each rule change this time tends to:

  • Make the game of golf more inclusive
  • Simplify the rules to remove ambiguity and make them easier to understand, or
  • Speed up the pace of play

These new rules do not take effect until January the 1st 2023. The current edition of rules (2019) should be used until then.

New Golf Rules 2023

5 key changes to the rules of golf for 2023

  • Modifications for Players with Disabilities: The modifications to the Rules for players with disabilities have been made part of the Rules and are in effect for all players who fall under the categories covered in Rule 25.
  • Handicap Usage in Stroke Play: With the continued growth of digital scoring following the adoption of the World Handicap System, players are no longer required to show their handicap on their scorecard in stroke play. The Committee will be responsible for calculating the player’s handicap strokes for the competition and using that to calculate the player’s net score.
  • Club Damaged During Round: The Rule has been amended to allow a player to replace a club that is damaged during a round, provided the player did not damage it through abuse. 
  • Ball Moved by Natural Forces: A new Exception provides that a ball at rest must be replaced if it moves to another area of the course or comes to rest out of bounds after being dropped, placed or replaced.
  • Back-on-the-Line Relief Procedure: The back-on-the-line relief procedure, often used for penalty area and unplayable ball relief, has been simplified so that the player now drops their ball on the line, and the ball must come to rest within one club-length of where it is dropped. 

A Closer Look at the Rule Changes

Modifications for Players with Disabilities:

The first change feels almost groundbreaking for golf. It’s the first time that the modified Rules for players with disabilities have been fully incorporated into the playing rules without the need to adopt a local rule. The change will hopefully encourage golf to be more inclusive. Rule 25 modifies certain rules for players with the following disabilities:

  • Players who are blind
  • Players that are amputees
  • Players who use assistive mobility devices
  • Players with intellectual disabilities

Hopefully this is just the start of making golf more inclusive. Products such as the Paragolfer below, are constantly being developed, to allow more and more people play golf each day.

Handicap Usage in Stroke Play:

The handicap rule is fairly self explanatory, there is now no punishment for putting the wrong (or omitting) handicap on a strokeplay scorecard. This is inline with a few other changes previously made that are encouraging millennial golfers. The increased use of software and apps for score entry means this rule makes perfect sense! While we’re talking about technology …

The R&A Rules App:

With the changes, the R&A Rules App will also be updated. From the middle of December 2022 all the updates should be ready. The governing bodies are spending time improving the app, with a suggestion that some 4 million fewer copies will be printed.

The app has been developed further and the new version will include:

  • A new video section will allow you to access all Rules videos in one location. 
  • A new Quick Guide video is aimed at players who are transitioning from learner golfer to a competitive golfer (for example those who are looking to gain a handicap). It will provide new golfers with the minimum Rules information that they need to get around the course. 
  • The Player’s Rule Finder will replace the Player’s Edition and the Visual Search. It is intended to help you quickly find a summary of the Rule you need to answer your Rules questions for the majority of scenarios.
  • A new set of short animated videos will be available to help you understand the most frequently used Rules.
  • The quiz will be updated to allow you to select the length of the quiz, 6, 9 or 18 questions. It will provide you with immediate feedback after every question.
  • A new Rules News section will include Rules articles and news (available in English language version only). Turn on push notifications so that you never miss a new Rules article or update.

Handicap Usage in Stroke Play:

Again the new “damaged club” ruling is fairly self explanatory. In brief you can now replace a club that is broken mid round as long as it hasn’t been caused by abuse.

Ball Moved by Natural Forces: 

The fourth change “ball moved by natural forces” in my opinion is quite niche. It’s probably not going to effect you but it’s another example of how the governing bodies are continuing to tidy up rules that just don’t work. This is a rule quite probably amended as a direct result of Rickie Fowler in the 2019 Waste Management tournament. Fowler dropped the ball under penalty. He then walked off to check his line etc and in the meantime the ball rolled into the water again which under the old rules cost him another penalty. The new rules would allow him to re-drop it in that situation without penalty.

Back-on-the-Line Relief Procedure:

Lastly, the final key change is to do with “Back-on-the-line Relief”. In the old rules a player could drop the ball within a one club penalty area. This rule allowed for a little bit of abuse to be honest so it has now been clarified that the player must drop on the line but the ball must rest within one club length of where it lands … even if that happens to be nearer the hole. This obviously makes sense because the player has gone back anyway so the dropped ball won’t be any closer to the hole than it started before the drop.


The R&A and USGA released this infographic to summarise the changes:

5 Key Changes to the 2023 Rules of Golf

All these rule changes … but still no sign of the one change that almost every golfer wants. A rule about relief from divots! what rules would you like to see change? Please drop a comment below.

Click to download your copy of the full Rules of Golf effective from January 2023.

Bye for now!


Last Updated on 28/02/2023 by Rob Davies

(109 Articles)

Rob is the founder and creator of Stripey Green TV. Having played the game for more than 25 years, he has shared a lot of similar experiences to the readers of SGTV, made plenty of mistakes, and picked up a LOT of hints and tips along the way. It was Rob's desire to share his golf experiences that were the primary reason for starting the SGTV website. He is passionate about helping fellow amateur golfers to NOT make mistakes, whether it be in their play, the equipment they purchase, or the golf that they watch.

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