|Hovering putter above the putting green|
Note that this blog will not be relevant following the revisions to the Rules of Golf effective 1st January, 2016.
One of the most welcome amendments to the Rules for 2012 – 2015 is the new exception to Rule 18-2b which states that a player will not incur a penalty if it is clear that something other than the player (e.g. wind or gravity) causes their ball to move after they have addressed it.
Let me try and explain the current application of this Rule (until 1st January), with four examples;
1. A player does not complete address of their ball because they hover their club above the ground (as in the photo above) without grounding it. Before they commence their stroke the ball is moved by the wind. Ruling: there is no penalty and the ball must be played from where it comes to rest.Note that in the first example, if it is the player that causes the ball to move and not the wind, the player does incur a penalty of one stroke under Rule 18-2a.
2. A player completes their address (takes their stance and grounds their club) but before they commence their stroke the ball is moved by the wind. Ruling: one stroke penalty under Rule 18-2b and the ball must be replaced.
3. A player completes their address (takes their stance and grounds their club) and commences their stroke when their ball is moved by the wind; they abort their stroke without touching their ball. Ruling: one stroke penalty under Rule 18-2b and the ball must be replaced.
4. A player completes their address (takes their stance and grounds their club) and commences their stroke when their ball is moved by the wind; they complete their stroke, topping their ball forward a few yards. One stroke penalty under Rule 18-2b and the ball must be played from where it comes to rest.
I am aware that many golfers read Rule 14-5 and wrongly presume that this absolves the player from a penalty in the circumstances of example 4 above. Rule 14-5 - Playing Moving Ball, states;
A player must not make a stroke at his ball while it is moving.So, in what circumstances does Rule 14-5 apply? Here is an example;
• Ball falling off tee - Rule 11-3.
• Striking the ball more than once - Rule 14-4.
• Ball moving in water - Rule 14-6.
When the ball begins to move only after the player has begun the stroke or the backward movement of his club for the stroke, he incurs no penalty under this Rule for playing a moving ball, but he is not exempt from any penalty under the following Rules:
• Ball at rest moved by player - Rule 18-2a.
• Ball at rest moving after address - Rule 18-2b.
5. A player's short putt just misses the hole and in frustration they instinctively tap their ball into the hole while it is still moving. Ruling: two penalty strokes in stroke play, or loss of hole in match play, under Rule 14-5, and the ball is holed.From 1st January 2012 a player will have addressed their ball when they have grounded their club immediately in front of or immediately behind their ball, whether or not they have taken their stance (new Definition of Address). Also, Rule 18-2b will be amended, as follows;
b. Ball Moving After AddressThis change will result in there being no penalties incurred in examples 2, 3 and 4 above, because it was the wind that caused the player’s ball to move.
If a player’s ball in play moves after he has addressed it (other than as a result of a stroke), the player is deemed to have moved the ball and incurs a penalty of one stroke. The ball must be replaced, unless the movement of the ball occurs after the player has begun the stroke or the backward movement of the club for the stroke and the stroke is made.
Exception: If it is known or virtually certain that the player did not cause his ball to move, Rule 18-2b does not apply.
Three-time major winner, Padraig Harrington, is just one professional golfer that has welcomed this forthcoming change to the Rules;
“I am delighted with the changes, in particular the ball moving after address. Every time the wind blows I am worried that my ball is going to move and I am worried about grounding my putter, distracting me from trying to hole my putt. This change will speed up play, there won’t be as many suspensions and players won’t be getting penalised or disqualified unfairly. It is definitely giving us players a little bit of a break.”Good golfing,
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