Spring 2017

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70 SPRING 2017 | WWW.NCGA.ORG Have an Accident? No Penalty on the Putting Green BY RYAN FARB R U L E S O F G O L F T he 2017 season was originally not supposed to bring about any changes to the Rules of Golf, but in an effort to achieve fair results over a controversial Rule the governing bodies introduced a new Local Rule that can be used that will prevent unjust penalties for accidentally moving the ball on the putting green. This Local Rule is set to become the law of the land in 2019 when the new Modernized Rules of Golf go into effect (although the feedback phase may result in some changes), but the USGA and R & A felt that this was an important enough change to fast- forward the process and allow Committees to implement the new Rule prior to 2019 via Local Rule. The Local Rule deals with any accidental movement of the ball or ball-marker on the putting green by the player, his partner, an opponent or any of their caddies or equipment. Previously, only certain "directly attributable" causes of movement would let a player off the hook (while measuring, for example, or in marking, lifting or replacing the ball). The new Local Rule extends that pro- tection to any accidental movement, effectively changing the stan- dard for determining whether a penalty applies. So if you accidentally drop your club on the ball, or drop the ball on the ball- marker, there would be no penalty and the ball or ball-marker must be replaced. In contrast, without the Local Rule in effect, Decision 20-1/15 clarifies that something dropped from any height causing movement would earn the player a one-stroke penalty because dropping something is not "directly attributable" to the marking, lifting or replacing of the ball or ball-marker. There are a few important notes about this new Rule: 1) It's only in effect as a Local Rule and therefore it must be implemented by the Committee in order to be in effect. The USGA, NCGA, NCAA, major professional Tours and other state and regional golf associations have all implemented the new Local Rule by putting it on their "Hard Card" or standard Local Rules for all competitions. Each individual club should ensure to implement the new Local Rule to make sure members do not get unfairly penalized in club competitions. 2) It only covers accidental movement and it only covers a ball or ball-marker that lies on the putting green. So it is still possible to be penalized for moving the ball on the putting green and else- where. For example, if a player picks up the ball without first mark- ing it, the player would still incur a one-stroke penalty and be required to replace the ball. Or, if the player accidentally drops a club that moves the ball in the fairway, that would be a one-stroke penalty and the ball must be replaced. 3) In cases where the cause of movement is not clear, a judge- ment still needs to be made. If it is determined that the player did not cause the ball to move, the ball must be played from its new position. If the player did cause the ball to move, the ball must be replaced. (A moved ball-marker is always replaced). Decision 18-2/0.5 guides us in using the "weight of evidence" standard to decide whether the player caused the ball to move by reviewing all available evidence including relevant conditions and actions around the ball. If the player causes the ball to move and does not replace it, that is a two-stroke penalty in stroke play or loss of hole in match play, so it is still extremely important to make a determination prior to playing the ball. Ryan Farb is the NCGA's Director of Rules and Competitions. He recently earned his second straight perfect 100 score on the PGA/USGA Rules exam. AP CAL SPORT MEDIA Rory McIlroy (middle) and Jason Day (far right) look at McIlroy's ball on the fringe of the green. Tom Watson examines his ball after it possibly moved on the 7th green at the 2016 Masters.

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