Happy Days!

Golf’s rule-mak­ers an­nounce a wel­come change

Golf Digest (South Africa) - - Close Out -

Golf’s gov­ern­ing bod­ies have sup­plied a rea­son to get ex­cited about 2017.With the bless­ing of The R&A and USGA (ef­fec­tive Jan­uary 1), cour­ses and tour­na­ment com­mit­tees can en­act a Lo­cal Rule that says if you, your cad­die, your part­ner or your equip­ment (or that of your op­po­nent) ac­ci­den­tally move a ball or ball marker on the putting green, there’s no penalty, and the ball should be re­placed. ▶ You read that right. Rule-mak­ers did some­thing re­ally good for the game, and the re­ac­tion from pro­fes­sional tour­na­ment or­gan­is­ers has been ex­tremely pos­i­tive: All the ma­jor pro tours and the Mas­ters Tour­na­ment said they will use the rule in 2017.

“We’re golfers, too, and when we saw play­ers pe­nalised for mi­nor move­ment of a ball on the putting green, it didn’t sit well with us,” says Thomas Pagel, se­nior di­rec­tor of the Rules of Golf and am­a­teur sta­tus for the USGA. “I hope peo­ple are ex­cited about the change and it’s well re­ceived.” Pagel said he could en­vi­sion this Lo­cal Rule be­com­ing per­ma­nent when the next re­vi­sions of the Rules of Golf go into ef­fect in 2020, but “I’m not go­ing to guar­an­tee any­thing,” he says.

The new Lo­cal Rule was a re­ac­tion in large part to the messy sit­u­a­tion that af­fected Dustin John­son at the 2016 US Open. John­son was deemed to have ac­ci­den­tally moved his ball on the fifth green dur­ing the fi­nal round and later re­ceived a one-stroke penalty, although video ev­i­dence seemed in­con­clu­sive, and John­son said he didn’t cause his ball to move.The way De­ci­sion 18-2/0.5 is worded, if the weight of the ev­i­dence in­di­cates that it’s more likely than not that a player caused the ball to move, the penalty must be as­sessed. In John­son’s case, the USGA said there was no other rea­son more likely than John­son.

An­other key rea­son for the change is agron­omy.As green speeds have be­come faster, keep­ing a ball at rest has been a chal­lenge. Some­thing as in­no­cent as step­ping in to ad­dress a putt could cause the ball to move.

So what hap­pens if the Lo­cal Rule is not in ef­fect? The one-stroke penalty for vi­o­lat­ing Rules 18-2 (ball at rest moved by player, part­ner, cad­die or equip­ment), 18-3 (ball at rest moved by op­po­nent, cad­die or equip­ment in match play) or 20-1 (lift­ing and mark­ing) would still ap­ply. Those rules spec­ify a penalty for mov­ing a ball or ball marker in many sit­u­a­tions, in­clud­ing ac­ci­dents such as kick­ing the ball or mov­ing it when you make a prac­tice stroke.

Keep in mind that the new Lo­cal Rule ap­plies only if a ball is on the green – by def­i­ni­tion, when any part of the ball is touch­ing the putting sur­face. Fur­ther­more, if the ball should move on the green as a re­sult of wind, wa­ter or some other nat­u­ral cause, such as grav­ity, the ball must be played from its new po­si­tion. A ball marker that moves as a re­sult of strong winds, for ex­am­ple, should be re­placed.

But put all of that aside for now, and just take a mo­ment to salute The R&A and USGA for do­ing some­thing pos­i­tive for golf. – ron kaspriske

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