Last January 4-year changes were installed into the Rules of Golf. Effective this January 1, 2017, the USGA has repealed one of its local rules (Rule 18-2).
The Local Rule was probably looked at seriously during the U.S. Open at Oakmont in June when Dustin Johnson was deemed to have accidentally moved his ball on the 5th green in the final round by grounding his putter during a practice stroke. Even though Johnson said he didn’t cause the ball to move, the USGA gave him a one-stroke penalty because they could find no other more likely reason for the ball to move than that Johnson had caused it to move.
Golf courses and tournament committees can now enact a Local Rule that says if you, your caddie, your partner or your equipment accidentally move a ball or ball marker on the putting green, there is no penalty and the ball should be replaced. This rule applies to your opponent or opponents in match play, and the other side’s caddies and equipment.
This Local Rule only applies if the ball is on the green, or any part of the ball is touching the putting surface.
However, if the ball moves on the green as a result of wind, water or some other natural cause such as gravity, the ball must be played from its new position.
Examples of where the new rule will apply:
- When preparing to make a putting stroke, the player accidentally causes his/her ball to move, there is no penalty and the ball must be replaced.
- A ball marker that moves as a result of strong winds, etc. may be replaced without any penalty.
- If a player drops the ball marker which hits and moves his/her ball, there is no penalty and the ball must be replaced.
- If a player accidentally drops the ball which hits and moves his/her ball marker, there is no penalty and the ball marker must be replaced.
- If a player accidentally kicks and moves his/her ball, there is no penalty and the ball must be replaced.
The Local Rule does not apply:
- If a player intentionally moves or lifts his/her ball on the putting green without first marking its location, there is a one-stroke penalty, and the ball must be replaced.
- When a player accidentally moves his/her ball that is lying on the fairway, in the rough, or in a bunker, there is a one-stroke penalty and the ball must be replaced.
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