Accidental Movement of a Ball on a Putting Green

As of January 1, 2017, the USGA and the R&A gave their stamp of approval on a new Local Rule that eliminates the penalty associated with the accidental movement of a ball on the putting green.

All major tours around the world along with all state and regional golf associations are using this new Local Rule. You need to make sure that your club is using it too!

Here’s the nuts and bolts of the Local Rule that only applies when a ball lies on the putting green:

  • If you accidentally cause a ball to move while it is at rest on the putting green, there is no penalty provided the ball is replaced.
  • If the ball is not replaced after it is accidentally moved on the putting green, the player will incur the general penalty of loss of hole in match play or two strokes in stroke play.

The Local Rule applies when a ball or ball-marker is accidentally moved by you stepping on it, kicking it, touching it with a club either in addressing or making a practice swing, dropping a coin on the ball or vice versa, the flagstick being dropped on it or any other crazy way you might accidentally cause the ball to move.

It doesn’t matter who accidentally causes the ball to move either. It could be you kicking your partner’s ball, your caddie dropping a towel on your opponent’s ball, your partner’s hat being blown off by the wind and striking your ball; I think you get my drift. This new Local Rule allows a freebie for you being clumsy.

There are a couple of exceptions:

  • If a ball on the putting green is moved as a result of wind, water or some other natural cause such as gravity, the ball is played as it lies from its new location.
  • If a player intentionally moves or lifts his ball on the putting green without first marking its position, he incurs a one stroke penalty and is required to replace the ball.

I usually close each Rules article with a reminder to check the index or the table of contents to find the proper Rule that applies to the situation. However, this new Local Rule is so new that it isn’t even in the Rule Book! So here is the text:

ACCIDENTAL MOVEMENT OF A BALL ON A PUTTING GREEN: 

 Rules 18-2, 18-3 and 20-1 are modified as follows:

When a player’s ball lies on the putting green, there is no penalty if the ball or ball-marker is accidentally moved by the player, his partner, his opponent, or any of their caddies or equipment. The moved ball or ball-marker must be replaced as provided in Rules 18-2, 18-3 and 20-1.

This Local Rule applies only when the player’s ball or ball-marker lies on the putting green and any movement is accidental.


Note: If it is determined that a player’s ball on the putting green was moved as a result of wind, water or some other natural cause such as the effects of gravity, the ball must be played as it lies from its new location. A ball-marker moved in such circumstances is replaced.

I urge you to make sure that your club puts this new Local Rule into effect. Check with your golf professional and make sure that it is!

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