The GCAA is partnering with the USGA, represented by Jamie Wallace, to do a feature on the Rules of Golf focusing on common situations that players encounter. Each month, we plan to highlight a specific Rule or Rules situation that is relevant to college golfers or one that is often misunderstood. We will highlight what the Rule says and how it is applied to the situation at hand.

This month, Jamie discusses a new Local Rule dealing with accidental movement of a ball on the putting green.

You may have heard about the Rules Modernization initiative that the USGA and The R&A have undertaken to make the Rules of the game more consistent, simple and fair for all golfers. One of the Rules changes that has been under discussion for many years as part of this initiative involves the accidental movement of a ball on the putting green.

In most cases when the ball moves, the player is simply taking normal actions to prepare for a stroke. So in the best interest of the game, this particular change was accelerated, and on Jan. 1 of this year, an optional new Local Rule was introduced. This Local Rule removes the penalty for any accidental movement of a ball or ball-marker on the putting green.

The key phrase here is "accidental movement." Let's take a look at a few instances that are no longer a penalty when the Local Rule is in effect and the ball is on the putting green:

  • You accidentally touch and move your ball with your putter in addressing it.
  • You accidentally drop your ball and it hits and moves your ball-marker.
  • You accidentally drop your ball-marker and it hits and moves your ball.
  • You accidentally kick and move your ball.

In all cases above, the moved ball or ball-marker must be replaced. Note that intentional movement — such as picking up your ball without first marking its position, or accidental movement of a ball that is not on the putting green are not covered under this Local Rule and would still incur a one-stroke penalty.

If your ball moves on the putting green, but the movement was caused by wind, water or some other natural cause such as the effects of gravity, you must play your ball as it lies from its new location.

There is a good chance that you will see this Local Rule in effect at golf tournaments this spring. The USGA will be using it in all of its competitions, along with The R&A, the PGA Tour and most other professional and elite amateur tournaments. If you are unsure, check with the committee in charge of running the event.

If you have a Rules question that comes up in a tournament this spring or that happened during a past round, feel free to send it in to us at and perhaps we will address it in a future newsletter. If you have any questions about this new Local Rule, or any other questions about the Rules of Golf, feel free to reach out to the USGA Rules department at 908-326-1850 (seven days a week) or