Wednesday, August 23, 2017

Ask Linda #1601-Drop putter on ball while replacing it

Dear readers,
Please disregard the notice you received about the Linwood tournament. That notice was meant to be posted on my tournament blog.

Hi Linda, 
Today in our Club Foursomes Championships I was on the green and had marked my ball while waiting to putt. I returned the ball to the ground just in front of the ball marker, and as I was lifting up the marker I knocked the putter out of my left hand, which then subsequently fell to the ground and moved the ball a few centimeters.

Our referee and opponents made me take a one-stroke penalty and replace the ball. I was wondering that as I was lifting up the ball marker and was in the process of lifting and replacing the ball, should I not have been penalised and simply replaced the ball?

Rule 20-3a:
“If a ball or ball-marker is accidentally moved in the process of placing or replacing the ball, the ball or ball-marker must be replaced. There is no penalty, provided the movement of the ball or ball-marker is directly attributable to the specific act of placing or replacing the ball or removing the ball-marker. Otherwise, the player incurs a penalty of one stroke under Rule 18-2 or 20-1.”

What do you think the correct decision should be?
Lulu from Sydney, Australia

Dear Lulu,

Your referee made the correct decision assessing you one penalty stroke for moving your ball in play (but see my last paragraph for an exception provided by Local Rule).

The movement of your ball was not directly attributable to the process of replacing it. The meaning of “directly attributable” is explained in Decision 20-1/15. There is no penalty if your ball is moved by your hand as you replace it, or the ball is moved when you pick up your ball marker. These acts are part of the process of replacing your ball. Knocking the putter out of your left hand and dropping it on the ball is not part of this process – one-stroke penalty and the ball must be replaced [Rule 20-3a].

However, the USGA and R&A added a Local Rule in December of 2016 that makes any accidental movement of your ball on the putting green a no-penalty situation. If your club has adopted this Local Rule, the referee erred in directing you to include a penalty. If the competition has not closed, the referee's error should be corrected and the penalty rescinded [Decision 34-3/1]. Here is the recommended wording of this Local Rule:

Accidental Movement of a Ball on a Putting Green
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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