The USGA and R&A have added a new local rule which will be applicable in cases where players have accidentally moved their own balls on the green. The rule can be appropriately called “The Dustin Johnson rule”.
As any Golfer will remember, Dustin Johnson was given a one-stroke penalty for causing his golf ball to move after grounding his putter for a practice stroke on one of Oakmont’s scary fast greens during the U.S Open.
The new rule has gone into effect from Jan 1st, 2017 and will be adopted by all major tours and championships. It modifies rules 18-2, 18-3, and 20-1, which deal collectively with a ball at rest.
The USGA’s new ruling says:
“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. … 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.”
“There was simply too many times on the putting green where we were seeing players penalized, balls moving. We weren’t sure the cause,” said USGA CEO and Executive Director Mike Davis in a press release. “What’s been happening is that you’re seeing penalties assessed that the rules never really contemplated.”
Thomas Pagel, the USGA’s senior director of rules and amateur status, said: “Eliminating the 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.”
Geoff Shackelford, offered his usual spot-on take, reading between the lines of the determination.
“The governing bodies have long resisted introducing the question of intent to the Rules of Golf. They’ve also been loathe to introduce Local Rules…But with one smart gesture preventing the game from three more years of silliness (until the next Rules of Golf update), they’ve introduced a local rule that eliminates a penalty for accidental ball movements. While it’ll inevitably be dubbed the Dustin Johnson rule, there were many victims along the way.”
Below is the official USGA infographic on the ruling: