Happy New Year! (and less penalties)

The Rules makers have given us a new Local Rule to eliminate a penalty for accidental movement of your ball or ball-marker on the putting green.

Effective today (January 1, 2017), a new Local Rule is available for any committee in charge of a competition to implement should they see fit. All of the major tours and associations will be implementing this new Local Rule.

The Rules makers have been pondering the question of accidental movement of a ball on a putting green for quite some time now. However, the Dustin Johnson incident in this year’s U.S. Open Championship, in my opinion, was the straw that broke the camel’s back. As a result, they decided not to wait until the scheduled Rules revision for 2020 nor the Decision revision for 2018. They went the Local Rule route to get something into place immediately. Look for the Local Rule to be incorporated into a Decision and later the Rule Book in the future.

Similar to the Local Rules for an “embedded ball through the green” and “distance measuring devices”, this new Local Rule must be employed by the committee in charge of your course; it does not go into effect automatically. Make sure to check with your golf professional and see to it that your course will use it as well.

Here is the text of the new Local Rule:

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

When a player's ball lies on a 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 is 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 move in such circumstances is replaced.

Please note that this Local Rule will only apply to accidental movement of the ball.

Here is a link to an infographic from the USGA as well as a Q&A on the new Local Rule.

Remember, use the index or the table of contents to find the correct Rule that applies to the situation and follow the Rules of Golf to help yourself to enjoy the game of golf.

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