GOLFERS across the country taking to courses this week will be playing in accordance with a new set of rules that are being put into place in 2019.

The new regulations are now in effect following the turn of the year, with club golfers studying the new regulations before the season gets underway.

New rulings concerning how the ball must be dropped, bunker relief and time allowed when looking for a lost ball are among a list of reformations made by the USGA (United States Golf Association) and R&A (Royal and Ancient Golf Club of St Andrews).

When dropping a ball, the player must now drop from knee height as opposed to shoulder height under the old rules.

If a shot is unplayable in the bunker, the player will now be permitted to move the ball back to a playable position in the bunker, retake their shot, or move the ball out of the bunker further away from the hole – all of which incur a penalty.

Time allowed for searching for a lost ball has been reduced from five minutes to three minutes.

Other new adaptations include players being allowed to putt while the flag remains in the hole and being allowed to repair spike marks on the green.

The full list of rules will be provided at rules evenings at clubs across the country, as well as online.

Oswestry Golf Club PGA professional Richard Edwards gave his thoughts on some of the new rules and believes that overall, they might speed the game up.

He said: “I’m quite a fan of the new rule that allows you to leave the flag in the hole when you’re on the putting green. I think it’s something that can speed up the game for sure.

“You can just walk up and take your shot rather than having to walk to the hole to take out the flag and then putting the flag back in when you’re done.

“If you take your game extremely seriously, you’ll appreciate having the choice of whether or not to leave the flag in – American pro Bryson DeChambeau will take the flag out or leave it in depending on whether it is made from plastic or fibre glass because the ball has more chance of falling into the hole after hitting one flag than it does the other.

“I like the new ruling for the bunkers which gives you the option to declare the ball unplayable and allows you to take relief behind the bunker in line with the flag. It gives you more options to get out of a tough situation in a bunker and I think it is something that will help club golfers in particular.

“In terms of speeding up play again, I think the three-minute rule when looking for a ball will certainly have a positive effect on that whereas it was five minutes before.

“Most golfers aren’t really aware of how long they take to look for the ball – I think by introducing a new time limit it will make players think more about this.

“One of the rules I’m not so keen on is the new rule regarding the dropping of the ball. I think it would be better to carry on with the ball being dropped from shoulder height – I just feel as though it’s easier to police and everyone can see that the ball has been dropped.

“The new rule is quite vague because it doesn’t allow you to bend with both knees and drop the ball from there, you have to instead drop when kneeling on one knee or drop bending your upper body and keeping straight legs.”

World No 8 and four-time major winner Rory McIlroy agreed that the new changes should help to speed the game up.

Speaking to Sky Sports, he said: “It might help pace of play a little bit.

“I think it’s going to be very strange for guys to tap down spike marks, and to tap in with the pin still in. There’s going to be a few things that are strange, like practising your drops from your knees.

“We’re saying that Brian Harman has got a big advantage because he can basically place it! But you’ve also got someone like Tony Finau who is dropping it probably from like waist high for me.

“But I think that they’re trying to simplify the rules which I think is a great thing for the game. I’ve always said that the rules of golf are way too complicated, especially after the debacles and farces we have had at US Opens and all sorts of stuff over the last few years.

“So I’m happy that they made the decision to try and simplify them and just try to make everything a little bit easier to understand.”