Well, the USGA and Royal and Ancient finally got something right. In a joint action on December 8, 2016 the governing bodies announced the introduction of a local rule that eliminates the penalty when a golfer accidentally moves a ball on the putting green. The local rule becomes available for implementation on January 1, 2017. Both governing bodies will adopt the local rule starting on that date as well, applying it to all of their championships, qualifying competitions and international matches.
In issuing their local ruling, the USGA and R&A have recommended the following modified language for Rules 18-2, 18-3 and 20-1.
"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 by 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."
Hopefully, players can now avoid the fiasco that Dustin Johnson experienced at the 2016 US Open.
Frank Guastella, PGA Rules Official Michigan Section PGA
Staff Writer, Mike Fay Golf
If you have a question for Frank here’s where you can contact him.