NEW year, new rules of golf, or at least some anyway.

Many golfers are likely to have already taken advantage of the decent early January weather by hitting the fairways, so they should already have been thinking of the new rules introduced by the R&A and USGA that were implemented on January 1.

Golf’s two governing bodies revealed the proposals for changes last year but the new finalised rules are slightly different.

The changes include the dropping procedure. Golfers must now drop from knee height rather than shoulder height.

Relief now can be taken using the longest club in their bag, barring the putter.

There will no longer be a penalty for double-hitting a shot. Golfers will simply count the single stroke they took to strike the ball, rather than counting two shots for hitting the ball twice.

Golf clubs are now allowed to install a local rule that golfers can drop a new ball in the vicinity of where their ball has gone out of bounds, with a two-stroke penalty.

It could therefore be that you no longer have to head back to the tee if this local rule is brought in by your club. It is only at club level, though, so don’t expect to see Rory McIlroy and Co taking that route on Tour.

There is now no penalty for accidentally moving your ball on the green or when looking for it. It is deemed that a player is not responsible for causing a ball to move unless it is virtually certain they did.

The flagstick no longer has to be attended or removed when putting and there will be no penalty if a golfer hits an unattended flagstick in the hole.

Spike marks can now be repaired as well as other damage on the putting green. There is also no penalty for merely touching the line of a putt.

The ground can now be touched with their club in a hazard and can move loose impediments in a hazard without penalty.

As well as that loose impediments in bunkers can be moved and will not be penalised for generally grounding their club away from their ball.

But you still cannot ground your club when playing a bunker shot. An unplayable lie may be taken in a bunker, with a drop out for two strokes.

Player integrity will be relied on to the point where a player’s “reasonable judgement” will be trusted on things like estimating/measuring a spot, point, line, area or distance.

The five-minute ball search time has been scrapped and reduced to three minutes to search for a strayed golf ball.

Golf’s governing bodies are also encouraging ready golf in stroke play and recommend golfers take no longer than 40 seconds over a shot.

It will be worth checking with your golf club to see what they have done about the rule changes if you are in doubt.