By now most readers will be aware of last week’s joint announcement by R&A and USGA about the introduction of a new Local Rule that eliminates the penalty when a ball is accidentally moved on the putting green. Full details of the announcement, the recommended wording for the Local Rule, the above infographic and explanations, can be viewed at these links;
I want to highlight a few points that may be missed by some golfers and golf Committee personnel;
• This is not a new, or amended Rule of Golf.
• It is the recommended wording for a Local Rule that may (should!) be introduced on or after 1st January 2017.
• Committees will have to introduce the Local Rule for it to take effect on 1st Janaury 2017 and they are encouraged to do so.
• It only applies to a ball, or ball marker, at rest on the putting green being played, not anywhere else on the course.
• It does not matter how the ball or ball-marker was accidentally moved, e.g. with the head of a putter, kicked, or as a result of a glove being dropped on it.
• It only applies when a ball or ball-marker is accidentally moved; it does not apply to a ball that is purposely touched or moved, e.g. a ball that is lifted without being marked.
• It applies to the player, their partner, their opponent(s), or any of their caddies or equipment.
• The ball or ball-marker that was accidentally moved must be replaced, as provided in Rules 18-2, 18-3 and 20-1.
• If a player does not think that they caused their ball to move in any way they must play it from where it came to rest, e.g. if it was moved by wind, water or gravity.
I have previousl blogged on at least three high profile incidents that would not now be penalised if this Local Rule had been in effect at the time;
• The ruling that Dustin Johnson had caused his ball to move at the 2016 US Open. Click here for details.
• Ian Poulter dropping his ball on his ball-marker at the Dubai Championship in 2010. Click here for details.
• Mike Clayton accidentally knocking his putter into his ball as he tried to catch it after throwing it in the air. Click here for details.
It seems that Decision 20-1/5.5 will have to be withdrawn from the next publication of the Decisions book. It rules that a player who found his ball-marker stuck to the sole of his shoe and concluded that he had accidentally stepped on it while assisting his partner in lining up a putt, would be penalised one stroke, which will not be the case when this Local Rule is implemented. (Edit: 13the December 2016: a reader has pointed out that Decision 20-1/14 will also have to withdrawn next time round and Decision 20-1/13 amended to clarify that the ball is not on the putting green. There are probably others!)
I certainly welcome this move by the Ruling Bodies, as the first step in their 'Rules Modernisation', which apparently is well under way and about which we will hear much more during 2017. There have been numerous instances where players have incurred penalties when their ball has moved, sometimes imperceptibly, on the much faster, undulating surfaces of putting greens. The only question that now has to be asked when this occurs is whether some person accidentally caused the ball to move, in which case it must be replaced, or whether something else caused it to move, e.g. wind or gravity, in which case it must be played from where it came to rest.
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