Proposed Rules Change to Ball Moving on the Putting Green

It is important that the ball moves on the putting green otherwise you could never hole-out. However, the Proposed Rule 13.1 suggests that even if you caused it to move – accidentally – then there is no penalty – just replace it.

The word “caused” in the rule as it currently reads has created the problem for the rules-makers in the interpretation of the rules in this instance and thus the need to make the rule less penal.

Once again, I believe the USGA and R&A are moving in the right direction in an effort to change the rules BUT I think the objective of any changes to the rules should be to Simplify not Modernize and what we have been inclined to do – in an effort to be more explicit –is to potentially further complicate the Rules.

The spirit of the game is unique in that it expects the golfer to call rules infractions upon themselves. This will happen, if the Rules are unambiguous, simple and the intent clearly conveyed.

The proposed change to eliminate the penalty for causing a ball to move – accidentally – on the green is a needless temptation for the golfer to abuse the intent of the rule.

I recall one instance, during the many equipment rules changes I co-authored, trying to avoid permitting adjustable clubs, if it was easy to make the adjustment during a round. My concern was that if it was easy to make a required adjustment during the round, that this would unfairly tempt golfers to do so, despite their conscience suggesting otherwise.  Adjustability is now permitted only with a special tool – not normally carried by the golfer – reinforcing the intent of the rule.

The essence of the Ball Moving on the Putting Green rule change is:

Proposed Rule: Under new Rule 13.1:

There would no longer be a penalty if a player (or opponent) accidentally causes the player’s ball to move on the putting green.

I urge you to view the video on the USGA website of golfers — accidentally – causing the ball to move by clicking on this link.

There is no question that in each case the player physically moved the ball.

This proposed change, in my mind, is too liberal and invites abuse of the intent of the rule and thus introduces potential conflict, through the temptation to — after accidently moving it – place in a preferred position (the subject of much discussion recently.)

I do believe that this proposed change has been made with the best of intentions to not unfairly penalize the player. However, it opens a door of temptation, to those who tend to push the envelope of the interpretation of the rule to their advantage.

I think that this generous change is going too far, with the downside greater than the upside.

We should rely on the integrity of the golfer but in doing so, remove any ambiguity and/or temptation that may get in the way.

Share your thoughts on this topic by replying below.


11 thoughts on “Proposed Rules Change to Ball Moving on the Putting Green

  1. The downside that I see here is that if the ball moves closer to the hole, I did not cause it to move and I get to play it in its new position. However, if it moves away from the hole, I must have caused it to move and I get to replace it without penalty. That said, I believe that with the speed of today’s greens and the delicate lies on a blade or two of grass, that no penalty should be assessed if a ball moves.

  2. At present, a player can re-tee a ball if he/she accidentally knocks it off the tee. Now there will be another rule to forgive a player from moving the ball on the green if it was accidental. What happens if you accidentally give the ball a nudge on the fairway? Will this lead to yet another Rule change?

    The re-tee rule makes sense in that the ball is not in play until you have tried to hit it and being up on a tee is an artificial situation allowed by the rules.

    Why not permit the change rule to apply “other than when the ball is moved by the player or the player’s club”?

    I agree that golf is played largely by honest players but cheats do pop up from time to time even in the Tour players’ ranks. Common honesty is not as strong as it used to be so why put temptation in the way?

  3. I agree with Frank. On the green the ball often settles in a depression. Given that I can’t fix it, under this rule I could be tempted to ‘accidentally’ move the unmarked ball and then replace it not in the depression. The rules shouldn’t mess with playing the ball as it lies.

    • If you want to move the ball from the depression you can simply mark, clean and replace it. How many players are going to watch their opponent that closely to spot that the ball is in a fractionally different spot?

  4. There is NO advantage when the new rule states “replace it”. Doesn’t that mean to put it back in the same spot in moved from ?

  5. If the golfer causes the ball to move, accidentally or not, it should be a penalty. If some outside force causes it to move it should be replaced with no penalty. And it shouldn’t matter whether the golfer took his stance and soled his club or not.

  6. If a ball is accidentally OR DELIBERATELY moved, put it back where it was and play on without penalty.

  7. Frank, Totally disagree with you.What advantage can a golfer get ? He is currently being penalized for no reason. The rule change is good for golf.

  8. Frank — This is the rare occasion where I disagree with you. If someone is inclined to cheat, they are going to do so. The gist of the Rules is not to “catch” cheaters, but to guide the vast majority of honest players to stay within the spirit of the game. The existing Rule on ball movement IS unfair and often silly in its application. Microscopic wiggling of the ball caused by wind or a slippery green leads to intense soul searching if the player is anywhere in the neighborhood when it happens. A penalty stroke is added on way too many occasions where the player did nothing to cause the ball to move. When playing in extreme wind, you dare not even address the ball in a normal fashion out of fear of having the ball it when your putter is near. I say good riddance to this one.

  9. I don’t believe that the movements described can lead to any advantage. Proceed with the change.

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