The USGA and R&A have today announced a local rule eliminating the penalty when a ball is accidentally moved on the green.
The new ruling will come into effect on January 1, 2017 and will be implemented in all USGA and R&A championships.
According to the announcement, Rules 18-2, 18-3 and 20-1 have now been 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.
USGA senior director Thomas Pagel said: "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."
David Rickman, 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."
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