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The Rules Of Golf: A New Local Rule Takes Effect On January 1, 2017

The United States Golf Association (the USGA) and the Royal And Ancient Golf Club of St. Andrews (the R&A) have just announced (December 8, 2016), that a new Local Rule covering the accidental movement of the golf ball while on the putting green will take effect on January 1, 2017. This new Local Rule is part of the USGA and R&A Rules Modernization process and will be adopted for all USGA and R&A competitions and qualifiers.

What does the new Local Rule state? The full wording of the rule is available here, but the following wording is recommended for use by the local Rules Committee when adopting the rule:

Accidental Movement of a Ball on the Putting Green

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.”

The USGA has provided a clarifying video, infographic and Q&A on the new Local Rule.

Why is this change being implemented as a Local Rule and not part of the Rules of Golf more generally? The Rules of Golf are only updated every four years and the most recent changes were just implemented on January 1, 2016. Thus, the next cycle of any new rules would not be implemented until 2020 and the USGA and R&A did not want to wait until then to adopt this change.

The USGA has also published reference mobile software applications for the Rules of Golf for both Apple and Android based mobile devices:

We look forward to hosting you at Walt Disney World® Golf in 2017, the “Happiest Place on TURF!”