Once again we must to get used to new golf rules.
1. Player etc. accidentally causes ball to move.
R&A and USGA has decided, that from January 1st 2017 it is possible for golf clubs to apply a new local rule, which states that there is no penalty if e.g. the player accidentally causes his ball on the putting green to move (the ball must be replaced).
R&A and USGA has explained the new local rule in a video:
R&A and USGA recommends the following wording:
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.
4. Four conditions.
Note, that four conditions must be fulfilled, for the local rule (if used by the golf club) to be invoked:
1. The ball lies on the putting green.
The local rule applies only, if the ball lies on the putting green. Thus, it does not apply, if the ball lies in a bunker, in the rough, in a water hazard etc.
2. The ball is moved.
The ball must be moved, for the local rule to apply. According to the definition, the ball is moved, if it moves away and comes to rest in a new position. Thus, if it only oscillates, it has not moved.
3. It is the player etc., who caused the movement of the ball.
The local rule only applies, if it was the player etc., who moved the ball. The player is deemed to have moved the ball, if there is more than a 50 %’s chance, that he caused the movement. Maybe you remember the “Dustin Johnson case” (which probably is the direct cause to this possible rule change).
If the movement of the ball e.g. was caused by the wind or by gravity, the local rule cannot be invoked (the ball must then – local rule or not – be played as it lies, without penalty).
4. Movement is accidental.
The local rule only applies, if the player etc. did not move the ball intentionally. If e.g the player lifts his ball on the putting green, without making it in advance, the local rule does not apply, and the player does not avoid penalty.
5. No local rule, no change.
Please note, that your golf club actively need to apply this local rule, if they want this rule change. If your club doesn’t apply it, it cannot be invoked by players, and therefore the “normal” rules in the rules book etc. applies.
6. Current rules.
If your club applies this local rule, the current rules are changed. The current rules states, that a player always gets a penalty stroke (also on the putting green), if he moves his ball in player… no matter whether it was intentionally or not.
With this new local rule, penalty is avoided, if the movement was accidental.
7. Examples (no penalty).
See below a few examples on the putting green, where you – if the new local rule is used – does not get a penalty (contrary-wise you will get penalty, if the local rules is not used):
1. You accidentally move your ball when addressing it.
2. You drop a ballmark onto the ball, on the way towards it, and the ball thereby moves.
3. You accidentally strike and move the ball in a practice swing.
8. Examples (penalty).
See below a few examples, where you – although the new local rule has been applied – still incurs penalty:
1. You accidentally strikes and moved your ball during search for it in the rough.
2. You lifts your ball on the putting green, without having marked it in advance.
9. Read more.
You can read more about the new local rule here: