Originally published Wednesday, October 10, 2018 at 08:36p.m.

The R&A and USGA have made some big changes to the Rules of Golf, beginning in 2019. These changes are intended to modernize the game and speed up the pace of play.

One of the rule changes that will be very helpful is limiting the time to search for a ball to three minutes versus the present five minutes. Studies have shown that if you have not found your golf ball within three minutes, odds are that you won’t find it in the next two minutes. And if you do, it will probably be unplayable or in a very ugly lie.

Let’s come to grips with this issue. Golf balls are not heirlooms.

In 2019, there will be no penalty if your ball played from the putting green (or anywhere else) hits an unattended flagstick in the hole. I really like this change. With a lot of us realizing our eyesight is deteriorating, this should help us.

Also, you don’t have to have someone attend the flagstick, which should improve the pace of play. An interesting study done by a famous short-game instructor points out that you will always have an advantage leaving the flagstick in if it is fiberglass, but you rarely have an advantage if it is a steel or aluminum flagstick, as the ball will rebound much more off these types of flagsticks.

Let’s discuss some topics as it relates to attending the flagstick.

You will observe sometimes that the tour caddies attending the flagstick have it leaning quite a bit. This is so they don’t stand anywhere near the hole.

These tour players are the best, and they can figure out the slope of the greens pretty well. However, I prefer that when someone attends the flagstick for me, they just hold it vertically. It helps me see the slope of the green better in relationship to the angle of the flagstick.

Most of the flagsticks in our area of Prescott have ridged metal bottoms so that the wind won’t blow the flagstick out of the hole. So, make sure it is not stuck when attending it (just a bit of dirt will cause this).

Pull the flagstick out right after the putt is struck; don’t wait until it is close to the hole. This gives you time to react if it is stuck. And make sure you lay it down on the green out of the way, not throw it down, and put the flagstick securely and fully back in the hole when exiting the green.

How many of us have double-hit a ball? I have, and when doing so, I had to count that stroke. And, to make matters worse, I had to add two penalty strokes. Invariably when double-hit, my ball always ended up in a much worse position. The R&A and USGA recognized this fact and concluded that you didn’t need another two strokes for this misfortune. So, in 2019, there will be no penalty if a ball is accidently deflected by you or your opponent, or their equipment or caddies, and the ball will be played as it lies.

I look forward to sharing more rule changes in future columns.

John Gunby Sr. is a columnist for The Daily Courier. Reach him by email at sportsdesk@prescottaz.com.