COMMON sense for once reigns in the golfing world with the powers that be announcing a new local rule that says there will be no penalty if a ball is accidentally moved on the putting green.
That non penalty applies if a golfer, their caddy, partner or equipment accidentally move a ball or ball marker on the putting green.
We were among those who thought it ridiculous the way the rule was applied to Dustin Johnson at the 2016 US Open, though thankfully the one stroke penalty didn’t end up costing him his first major victory.
To me, Johnson was convicted purely on circumstantial evidence because he and his ball were together on the fifth green at Oakmont and his ball moved as he was about to address it.
Johnson claimed, and it appeared the case on high definition TV, that the ball just moved, as they often do. I had one move on Saturday in my local comp that one moment was stationary and the next did a little half sideways roll. Had it been sitting on a tiny grain of sand or something? Who knows.
The officials at Oakmont decided the wind wasn’t strong enough to move Johnson’s ball, so he must have done it. Kind of like if you have two people alone in a room and one of them dies, you charge the other one with murder – without first getting a medical expert to investigate if a 103 year old might die of natural causes.
But as of 1st January 2017 that all changes with the USGA and R&A jointly announcing a new local rule to cover the situation.
It is only a local rule though, meaning though all the pro tours have already said they would institute it, local golf committees will also have to enact it.
“We’re golfers, too, and when we saw players penalized for minor movement of a ball on the putting green, it didn’t sit well with us,” said Thomas Pagel, senior director of the Rules of Golf and amateur status for the USGA. “I do hope people are excited about the change and it’s well received.”
Pagel added he could envision a time when this Local Rule becomes a permanent one—such as when the next revisions to the Rules of Golf go into effect in 2020 – but “couldn’t guarantee it”.
New golf rule suggested wording
If a Committee wishes to introduce this Local Rule, the following wording is recommended:
“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.”