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iacas

USGA Announces Local Rule for 18-2 on Putting Green

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Golf Channel is teasing the heck out of something this morning. What is it?

Is it about 18-2? Something else? Why do it after one year?


So it is about 18-2. :sigh:

In 2017 they're creating a local rule when a ball "accidentally" moves on the putting green.

If wind or something else moves it, you still play it from the new position.


So did Dustin cause his ball to move? They would still say yes, just accidentally. Had he played it from the new position he'd have still been liable for a penalty.

I don't like adding this as a local rule. Is it a stopgap until 2018? It's very unusual.

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I think it's fine, although a little weird to delineate the putting green from the rest of the course in this way. I'm adding it to my local hard card, mostly so I don't have to penalize players who accidently step on their marks and move them (happens one or twice a year).

In case anyone wants to read more about it, here's a link to the announcement: http://www.usga.org/rules-hub/2017-local-rule/new-local-rule.html

Text of the local rule:

Quote

“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.”

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http://www.usga.org/rules-hub/2017-local-rule/2017-local-rule-resources.html

That page has a video that I can't embed here.

http://www.usga.org/rules-hub/2017-local-rule/new-local-rule.html

http://www.usga.org/content/usga/home-page/rules-hub/2017-local-rule/2017-local-rule-full-text.html

From this: http://www.usga.org/rules-hub/2017-local-rule/qanda.html

Quote

2) Does the Local Rule apply to a ball moved by the wind?

No. If the ball was moved as a result of wind, water or some other natural cause (including gravity), the ball must be played as it lies from its new location without penalty.

In other words, there's still going to be debate about the cause of the ball moving. "Cause" must still be determined. And though I don't expect it will come up very often at all, you also have to determine whether the movement was intentional or accidental.

Most of the suggested rules changes here had the player replacing the ball regardless of what caused it to move. Others had it done only after being marked. I continually rejected those changes (for myself, just opinion) because the first didn't differentiate between a "natural" motion of the ball due to slope, gravity, wind, etc. and the player causing the ball to move, and the second because they treated two balls differently (when one had been previously marked and another not).

This local rule uses a delineating line already established in the Rules of Golf - the "putting green" - that at least makes some sense. I'm not fully on board with this - I think there's little wrong with players taking care when they're near their golf ball - but if the USGA had to modify the rule I suppose this is the best way to do it. Golf balls weren't moving around a whole lot in the fairway or rough or bunkers. More of the actions occurred on the putting green, so okay… I guess. I don't like that people will likely learn that they can be a bit more careless around their golf ball, though: accidentally moving your ball in the rough is still a penalty, and I would continue to argue should be, in part due to the difficulty of actually re-creating the lie exactly. On the putting green, that's pretty much possible, and that's why I'm "kinda" okay with this.

I think they'll change 18-2 in 2018 to just roll this Local Rule in, and I expect nearly every competition run by a competent committee will have this Local Rule in effect. Not doing so invites a whole host of problems, because you know people will assume that this is in place since people don't really understand how a "Local Rule" works.

Quote

3) Why is the Local Rule being introduced?

The movement of a ball on a putting green has been one of the many topics discussed as part of The R&A’s and USGA’s ongoing Rules Modernization initiative to consider comprehensive changes to the Rules of Golf. For these particular situations, it was noted that the shape, slope and condition of many putting greens today increase the chances that a ball at rest on a putting green will move, and it can be difficult to determine whether a player caused the ball to move or whether the ball was moved by wind or other natural causes. Furthermore, when a ball moves while the player is doing nothing more than taking normal actions to prepare for a stroke, it may seem unfair for the player to be penalized. 

I don't agree it's unfair - the player caused the ball to move (you'll still have to determine that). They should take more care near their golf ball. And this is just a reaction to Oakmont - balls have moved on the putting green for years, because even at stimp 8 you can have a false front or other slopes steep enough where a ball is on the brink of movement and the slightest breeze can nudge it along.

I saw it happen twice in two groups one year on the 18th green at Muirfield Village. Eight years ago.

Quote

4) Why not apply this Local Rule everywhere on the course? 

As part of our continued review of the Rules related to ball movement, and in particular our Rules Modernization initiative, it was noted that almost all “ball moved” instances occur on the putting green, and involve very minimal movement. Frequently, the movement occurs as the player is simply taking reasonable actions in preparing for a stroke and the ball can easily be replaced. These considerations are not the same when the ball lies off the putting green and we believe it is important to retain the penalty for those instances to reinforce the principle that the ball should be played as it lies.

Plus what I noted above: it's easier to re-create your lie on the putting green than it is anywhere else on the course.

Quote

5) Why not wait and change the Rule as part of the next Rules cycle? 

As part of the Rules Modernization initiative being pursued by The R&A and USGA, we plan to preview a comprehensive set of proposed changes in 2017. Given the significant ongoing issues that have arisen with the application of Rule 18-2 over the last several years, we concluded that this particular change should be available to all committees now, through the adoption of a Local Rule. 

Because we're a reactionary organization on this. That's what they should have said. :-)

This has nothing to do with the "preview" coming later next year.

Quote

6) Rule 18-2 was just changed. Why are you now making an additional change through the Local Rule? 

The Rules of Golf are an ever-evolving code, and Rule 18-2 is a good example. The most recent revision was the withdrawal of Rule 18-2b (ball moving after address) in January 2016. This change removed the presumption that the player caused the ball to move when it moved after being addressed. However, while this change was for the benefit of the player as it removed the automatic penalty, it has led to increased questions on what caused the ball to move, especially on the putting green. The Local Rule is now being introduced to put less emphasis on the cause of the ball’s movement on the putting green. 

That's just incorrect. The cause of the ball's movement must still be determined so that you know whether to replace it or play it as it lies.

Practically speaking, now that there's no penalty, people will likely just say "oh, my ball moved, I'll put it back." But that's not how the rules are written.

The USGA basically admits that it's incorrect above later on:

Quote

10) As a referee, how do I proceed when a player on the putting green calls me over and says his ball moved? 

Just as before, you will need to weigh all available evidence for the given situation to determine whether the player was responsible for the ball’s movement. As provided in Decision 18-2/0.5, a determination must be made if the player was more likely than not to have caused the ball to move. 

If the player did cause the ball to move, next, you need to confirm if the movement was accidental. If the movement was accidental, the player incurs no penalty and must replace the ball. If the movement was not accidental, Rule 18-2 applies, and the player must replace the ball under penalty of one stroke.

If the player did not cause the ball to move, the ball is played as it lies unless some other Rule applies (e.g., Rule 18-1).  


Here's an infographic:

LocalRule-infographic_final.jpg

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Had this rule been in force at Oakmont; it would have been in Dustin Johnson's best interests to say he had "accidentally" caused the ball to move - despite his belief that he had not.  The USGA needs to act quickly and issue a "relief from moral hazard" local rule.

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34 minutes ago, Piz said:

Had this rule been in force at Oakmont; it would have been in Dustin Johnson's best interests to say he had "accidentally" caused the ball to move - despite his belief that he had not.  The USGA needs to act quickly and issue a "relief from moral hazard" local rule.

In that case it wouldn't have mattered much - the ball didn't move too far.

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2 hours ago, Club Rat said:

Why would USGA classify this as a "local rule" ?

 

 7) Why not make this a permanent change to the Rules, instead of just a Local Rule? 

The Rules of Golf are typically revised every four years, with the latest version taking effect in January 2016. The introduction of the Local Rule is outside the normal revision cycle and enables committees to eliminate the penalty for ball-moved situations on the putting green. While the relevant Rules are under consideration as part of the comprehensive Rules Modernisation project, we believed it was important to allow for committees to address this issue in advance of the full changes from that project taking effect.

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To follow up to what @Rulesman says, I expect it will be part of 18-2 in 2018. The USGA and R&A issued these rules only for two years. Maybe they think their "preview" will go live in 2018, or maybe not, but they didn't seem to want to lock themselves into a four-year cycle this time around.

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23 minutes ago, Rulesman said:

7) Why not make this a permanent change to the Rules, instead of just a Local Rule? 

Ah, makes sense now. Thanks for the info.

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3 minutes ago, boogielicious said:

I think it will make it more confusing for people to interpret.

I think they'll skip trying to figure out the cause and will just replace the ball, even if the wind moved it. And I bet those who kinda follow this stuff will assume the Local Rule is in place all the time.

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The one issue I might have is accidentally hitting the ball with the putter.  Some people make a practice swing over the top of the ball.  I can see someone making a practice swing and accidentally hitting the ball.  Since it was accidental, the ball is returned to the former spot without penalty.  Meanwhile, the break and speed of the putt may have been revealed.

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3 hours ago, iacas said:

To follow up to what @Rulesman says, I expect it will be part of 18-2 in 2018. The USGA and R&A issued these rules only for two years. Maybe they think their "preview" will go live in 2018, or maybe not, but they didn't seem to want to lock themselves into a four-year cycle this time around.

I believe they are putting out a 'review' version in 2017.

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19 minutes ago, bkuehn1952 said:

The one issue I might have is accidentally hitting the ball with the putter.  Some people make a practice swing over the top of the ball.  I can see someone making a practice swing and accidentally hitting the ball.  Since it was accidental, the ball is returned to the former spot without penalty.  Meanwhile, the break and speed of the putt may have been revealed.

The issue with that is. If you continue to do it then you will be penalized. As the evidence piles up it doesn't validate it was accidental. 

Also there is this rule, 

Quote

 Testing Surface

During the stipulated round, a player must not test the surface of any putting green by rolling a ball or roughening or scraping the surface.

Exception: Between the play of two holes, a player may test the surface of any practice putting green and the putting green of the hole last played, unless the Committee has prohibited such action (see Note 2 to Rule 7-2).

In the end they might not get hit with a penalty for the ball moving, but they should get hit with this penalty. 

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I welcome the change. In practice it means that if the player is nowhere near the ball when it moves, it is inferred that the ball moved naturally, for example due to a gust of wind and the ball is played where it lies after the move. For anything else, place it back. Simple.

The hard part is differentiating accidental from intentional, but @saevel25 laid out a very good argument: you might get away with doing it once, but will be caught if you are a repeat offender. Besides, the ROG presume that the player is honest, not a cheating bastard. Yes, it's true that there may be some of those found in casual play, but I doubt that there are any such individuals at a high level of play: they would be rooted out and disgraced forever and could not longer earn any money playing... A big deterrent, if you ask me.

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27 minutes ago, Rulesman said:

I believe they are putting out a 'review' version in 2017.

They're putting out a "preview" version with their reorganization/rethinking, and will likely listen to the feedback. If it's good and there aren't problems, I suspect they'll become the Rules of Golf in 2018.

The Rules are the same for 2016-17. Normally they're four years, but in 2015 they made the 2016 revision just for two years knowing they had this re-imagining coming.

8 minutes ago, sjduffers said:

I welcome the change. In practice it means that if the player is nowhere near the ball when it moves, it is inferred that the ball moved naturally, for example due to a gust of wind and the ball is played where it lies after the move. For anything else, place it back. Simple.

What if the player is close to the ball but didn't do anything to cause it to move? You still have to determine the cause of the ball's movement.

8 minutes ago, sjduffers said:

The hard part is differentiating accidental from intentional, but @saevel25 laid out a very good argument: you might get away with doing it once, but will be caught if you are a repeat offender. Besides, the ROG presume that the player is honest, not a cheating bastard. Yes, it's true that there may be some of those found in casual play, but I doubt that there are any such individuals at a high level of play: they would be rooted out and disgraced forever and could not longer earn any money playing... A big deterrent, if you ask me.

Yeah, I don't think there will be too much trouble with that part.

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11 minutes ago, iacas said:

What if the player is close to the ball but didn't do anything to cause it to move? You still have to determine the cause of the ball's movement.

And by "didn't do anything", you mean didn't step in, didn't make a practice stroke, didn't ground the putter, right? How did the player get close to the ball, without stepping in? I'd say, he did something (that changed the environment of the ball) and give him the penalty-free replace the ball decision.

In the extremely rare case, where the player is ready to strike his putt, but does not do it for whatever reason (gathering his thoughts, firming his balance, having a brain fart?) for an overlong period of time and a gust of wind happens to cause the ball to move then, it would not be different from the current 18-2 rule (e.g. Vittel not penalized because it took 5-6 seconds for the ball to move). Just play it as it lies then.

Anyway, you'll agree that it's not a good idea to stand frozen over a putt for several seconds (e.g. 5 or more) before pulling the trigger. Most good putters move something, such as tapping the putter up and down, like Henrik Stenson does and/or do a forward press like Phil Mickelson does. True, I do see some buddies in my rounds that are totally frozen, but then they aren't good putters. I've told them to trace the path back from the hole to the ball with their eyes and start the stroke when their eyes get back to the ball (as an extension of the path trace). But they don't and take seemingly forever to pull the trigger, and it's hardly ever a good result.

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Apologies if I've got this wrong; but I think what @iacas  is referring to is a situation analogous to Oakmont in which the player addresses the ball and it moves.  Under the new ruling it is okay if the player touches the ball but still up for discussion if the player does not touch the ball.  If it is okay to touch it; why require an interpretation if the player almost touches it?

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