R&A and USGA confirm changes to putting rules from next year
Last Updated: 08/12/16 2:15pm
Golf's governing bodies have announced changes to local rules regarding the ball accidentally moving on the putting green.
The R&A and the USGA confirmed the new rule, which takes effect from January 1, "eliminates the penalty when a ball is accidentally moved on the putting green".
The change has been prompted by a number of incidents in competition throughout this year, most notably the situation involving Dustin Johnson during the final round of the US Open in June.
Johnson was under investigation after his ball appeared to move before he putted for par on the fifth green at Oakmont, and he was forced to play the remainder of his round without knowing where he would be penalised or not.
The American defied the uncertainty to capture his maiden major title, and the R&A and USGA have now moved to clarify the ruling which should rule out similar situations arising in the future.
A joint-statement released by the two governing bodies read: "The local rule will be available for any committee in charge of a competition to use starting January 1 2017. It will be adopted by The R&A and the USGA in all of their championships, qualifying competitions and international matches."
David Rickman, the executive director - governance at the R&A, said: "For the past several years, as part of The R&A and USGA's Rules Modernisation initiative, we have considered the penalty for a ball that is accidentally moved on the putting green.
"Both rules committees agreed that it needed to be changed and decided that in this particular case it was important to act now, through a local rule, rather than wait for the next overall set of revisions to the Rules of Golf."
Thomas Pagel, senior director of the Rules of Golf and amateur status at the USGA, added: "Eliminating this penalty responds to the concerns we have heard from both golfers and committees about the difficulties in applying the current rules when a player accidentally causes a ball to move on the putting green.
"This change is a good example of the type of rules modernisation changes we hope to implement after completing our fundamental review of all of the rules. We are looking for ways to improve the rules by making them easier to understand and apply."
As a result of the changes, which have been approved and adopted by all major tours worldwide, Rules 18-2, 18-3 and 20-1 now read:
"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."