Friday, August 21, 2015

Ask Linda #1132-Hit moving ball


I have a question about a situation that occurred on the putting green.

As I addressed the ball, started my putting stroke, the ball moved about an inch. As I was in the downswing of my putt I was unable to hold up my putting stroke and I hit the ball. A gentleman in our foursome stated that I have to take a two-stroke penalty for striking the ball, because it was moving when I struck it. This isn’t like I missed a putt and then putted the ball into the cup before it came to rest. The ball just started to move while I was making my putting stroke.

I know Rule 18-2 is one of the rules that was changed in the 2012-2015 USGA Rules, but I’m not sure if it applies here. I’m really not sure why the ball moved – it didn’t move when I addressed the ball, it was not windy out, I really don’t know what made the ball initially move. If I am penalized in this situation, is the penalty two strokes?

Thanks for your help clarifying.
Lulu from California

Dear Lulu,

The penalty is one stroke.

Whenever a ball moves after the player has addressed it, the player is deemed to have moved the ball. The exception to this Rule (the Rule change you refer to) is if it is known or virtually certain that something observable caused the ball to move (e.g., wind, water, outside agency, but not gravity) [Decision 18-2b/1].

Ordinarily, a moved ball must be replaced. The penalty is one stroke, unless the player does not replace the ball, in which case the penalty increases to two strokes. However, if the player has started her stroke (including the backswing for her stroke), and she hits the moving ball (your situation), the penalty is one stroke [Rule 18-2b].

The ruling would be the same anywhere on the golf course, not just the putting green.

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