Rickie Fowler, Justin Thomas etc. criticizes new Rules of Golf: Will USGA and R&A change the Rules?

Hi all.

The new Rules of Golf have gotten a lot of attention recently.

And quite a few professional players (including Justin Thomas and Rickie Fowler) have stated their frustration with these Rules in public  (see e.g. this overview from Golf Channels website) – prompting commentary and discussions.

I have tried to sum up some of it below. 


Recently in  Honda Classic, Rickie Fowler mocked the new dropping Rule:

As you might know, Fowler recently incurred a one stroke penalty for dropping from shoulder height.

Fowler added that the new “caddie-Rule” is stupid:

Justin Thomas has also included quite a few negative comments about the Rules of Golf recently, which caused USGA to write to him in public on Twitter, where they accused him of cancelling several meetings with the USGA – and asked him to call them:

Not long after, though, USGA published this tweet:

Webb Simpson recently even suggested, that the PGA Tour should get its own Rules.

The PGA Tour Commissioner Jay Monahan then published this memo about a week ago:


This all seems like a bit like an untenable mess.

Personally I think, that we should all remind ourselves, that…:

  • … the new Rules of Golf are great and that USGA and R&A have done a fantastic and great job modernizing them. It is not an easy task to rewrite so many Rules. I think they deserve a lot more respect and praise.
  • … there will always be some Rules, that some players etc. don’t like. But all players etc. have had a chance to give input and feedback to the drafts, and USGA and R&A have been very open in the process. The Rules as we have them are (I assume) the Rules, that most people would have. I think that that fact should get some attention too.


In the past the Rules of Golf have been changed quite a few times in direct response to a professional player’s situation (Lexi Thompson, Dustin Johnson, Haotong Li etc.) – so it will be interesting to see, if USGA and R&A will continue to change or modify Rules in response to real play situations in near future.

I expect more Rules incidents in the coming weeks :-).


  1. Bob Murphy says

    Let’s hope things settle down.

  2. Dennis Dody says

    Dropping a ball should have a minimum height requirement, but that’s not to say it can’t be waste or shoulder high….no advantage…no penalty…think!!

  3. Dennis Dowdy says

    If your caddie is not in line in FRONT of you ….its stupid…he’s your caddie let him do his job!!! Your paying him right!!!! A LOT!

  4. Greg Adams says

    The reason for the new drop height is connected to the new rule that the ball must be dropped in and played from the “relief area”. If you drop from higher then you can create a situation where the ball rolls out of the relief area and after 2 drops you get to place the ball which can definitely be an advantage. The reason the rules of golf are so specific is that there are two types of golfers – those who would do anything to avoid taking an unfair advantage and unfortunately some who are the exact opposite!

    1. Dagbone says

      In addition to the “two drops” dilemma you relate, dropping from knee-height makes it easier to fully comply with the rule, and speeds up play.

    2. Alan Hugh says

      Well said. The Pros want every advantage. If the wind is up they have the tee brought forward etc. Quit whining and play the game against what is in front of you and get on with it.

  5. Dennis Dowdy says

    The only reason your caddie can’t be behind your line is so the camera man can get a better shot….sad to see usga cave to the media for rules of ⛳….where will it end. You can throw the record books out….its a different game.

  6. Wiffer says

    The Rules are better and like any change it takes time to learn and apply properly.
    I am involved with junior golf and hate to see the examples being set by these professionals that many kids idolize. Persevere and we’ll all get there.

  7. Dagbone says

    Brian, I completely agree. The new Rules of Golf are a real triumph for the game. But so many “pundits” feel the need to highlight the (very few) imperfections. We should ignore such unreasoned opinions.

    Rules enthusiasts may recall that the original draft Rules from the USGA/R&A stated that a ball could be dropped from essentially any height, including as little as 1/4 of an inch above the ground. As long as the ball “fell through the air”, the ball was appropriately dropped. This guidance morphed into “knee-height” in the final version (Rule 14.3b(2)), which I think helped to protect the integrity of the game.

    As for the “caddie stands behind the player” Rule 10.2b(4), I think the real problem comes down to intent. If a caddie does so to help a player line up (which was allowed in the Rules of Golf prior to 2019), that probably should not be allowed. If a caddie does so merely to “scope out” the shot, that’s probably OK. The problem, of course, is that we can’t always judge a person’s intent. But then again, there are many Rules in golf that rely upon a person’s intent already, such as the Definition of “Stroke” and the idea of “caring for the course”. It would not surprise me to see this Rule revised to make it clearer that the caddie is not allowed to intentionally help the player line up in any way.

  8. Anonymous says

    Get rid of thoses dam books that they are all looking at to read putts. Golf is about being able to read the greens. Seems it’s being made easier for the pro golfers !!!!!!

  9. Mac says

    Why do caddies need to line players up, that’s ridiculous most of the tour players never had caddies line them up when they started out so why now, the skill of these so called elite players should be that they can line themselves up and read the greens, they had these skills when they were amateurs but now they get lazy and need someone else to do their job – ridiculous! The rule was brought in to speed up the game, get on with it!

  10. Terry Greaney says

    The consultation was, as far as I’m aware, ONLY about the proposal to drop at ANY HEIGHT from just above the ground. I certainly didn’t like this, ie the proximity to ground level, and glad that changed. However I don’t believe there was any consultation about dropping at EXACTLY knee height (+/-). Nor do I believe was there any public discussion on the higher drops causing delays, or being used to advantage.
    The rule should be a MINIMUM of knee height.

  11. Jean says

    Knee height is awkward. I think I’m dropping at knee height and friends tell me I’m still too high.

  12. Magyar says

    (DELETED BY ADMINISTRATOR) The Rules are considerably easier for everyone especially new golfers. In years past, my friend a USGA Sr. Rules Official was on speed dial! Since the Rules change, we speak less often much to his chagrin! HA…

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