The new Rules will go into effect on 1 January 2019. The anticipated process and schedule between now and then is as follows:
- Publish the Rules of Golf, complete and publish the Player’s Edition, The Official Guide to the Rules of Golf, The Modified Rules of Golf for Players with Disabilities and other materials;
- Facilitate the translation of these materials;
- Finish work on a new Rules app and other means of electronic delivery; and
- Educate golfers and officials at all levels of the game.
Golfers will continue to play by the current Rules until the new code takes effect on 1 January 2019 when all the necessary supporting materials will be available.
In this edition we continue our focus on some of the more important changes for your guidance.
Explanation for Rule Changes for 2019
No Penalty for Moving a Ball on the Putting Green
Current Rule: Under Rule 18-2, if a player (or opponent) accidentally causes the player’s ball to move anywhere on the course, there is a one-stroke penalty (unless one of several exceptions applies).
2019 Rule: Under Rule 13.1d, there will no longer be a penalty if a player (or opponent) accidentally causes the player’s ball to move on the putting green.
The substance of this Rule change has already been implemented as of 1 January 2017 by authorizing Committees to adopt a Local Rule that eliminates the penalty for accidentally moving a ball on the putting green.
Reasons for Change:
- The shape, slope and condition of many putting greens today increase the chances that a ball at rest on the putting green might 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.
- When a ball moves while the player is doing nothing more than taking normal actions to prepare for a stroke, it can seem unfair for the player to be penalized. –
- Most “ball moved” situations occur on the putting green, involve minimal movement of the ball, frequently occur when the player is taking reasonable actions to prepare for a stroke and the ball can be easily replaced.
- These considerations are not the same when the ball lies off the putting green, and so the penalty will continue to apply (with exceptions, such as accidentally moving a ball during search) to a player or opponent in those circumstances to reinforce the principle that the ball should be played as it lies and that players should continue to exercise care when near to a ball in play.
Standard for Deciding Why a Ball Moved
Current Rule: The “weight of evidence” standard is used to decide whether a player (or an opponent) caused the player’s ball to move:
- The decision must be made in the light of all relevant circumstances, evaluating the weight of the evidence and the balance of probabilities (Decision 34-3/9).
- The player will be found to have caused the ball to move if the weight of the evidence indicates that it is more likely than not that he or she was the cause (Decision 18-2/0.5).
But a higher standard (“known or virtually certain”) applies in deciding whether an outside agency (such as an animal, spectator or another player in stroke play) caused a ball to move.
2019 Rule: Under Rule 9.2, the “known or virtually certain” standard (meaning at least 95% likely) will apply to all questions of fact about why a ball at rest moved:
- A player, opponent or outside influence will be found to have caused the ball to move if the player, opponent or outside influence was known or virtually certain to have caused it to move; otherwise it will be assumed that natural forces caused it to move.
Reasons for Change:
The weight of the evidence test is often difficult to apply in ball moved situations:
- Many competing factors need to be balanced, such as what the player did near the ball, the lapse of time before the ball moved, the lie of the ball, the slope and other course conditions near the ball and the presence of wind or weather conditions, and –
- There is no prescribed way of prioritizing or balancing these factors.
The “known or virtually certain” standard will be simpler to apply because it will eliminate most “close calls” where it is hard to know for sure why the ball moved.
Using this standard will fit well with the new Rule 13.2 that will eliminate the penalty for accidentally causing a ball to move on the putting green:
- The primary reason for eliminating that penalty is that it is often particularly difficult to decide why a ball moved on the putting green. This is explained further in Explanation for Proposed Rule Change – When to Replace Ball that Moves on Putting Green.
Given those particular difficulties, using the “known or virtually certain” standard will be more clear-cut and easier to apply, and help avoid the risk of players being penalized for playing from a wrong place (replacing the ball when it should have been played as it lies, or vice versa) based on the same difficult balancing of factors that led to eliminating the penalty for causing the ball to move.
This Rule change also means that only the single standard of “known or virtually certain” will be used for all ball moved questions, rather than the situation under the current Rules where different standards apply in deciding whether an outside influence moved a ball or whether the player or opponent did so.
Ball in Motion Accidentally Deflected
Current Rule: If a player’s ball in motion is accidentally deflected, the outcome depends on what caused the deflection:
- If the ball hits the player or his or her equipment or caddie, the player gets a one-stroke penalty and the ball is played as it lies (with limited exceptions).
- If the ball hits an opponent or his or her equipment or caddie, there is no penalty but the player has a choice to play the ball as it lies or to cancel the stroke and play again.
- If the ball is deflected by any other person, animal or object, there is no penalty and the ball is played as it lies.
2019 Rule: Under Rule 11.1, for all accidental deflections, including when the ball hits the player or opponent or their equipment or caddies:
- There will be no penalty and the ball will be played as it lies (with limited exceptions).
- To address any concern that a player might deliberately position equipment to act as a backstop and potentially deflect his or her ball, there will be a penalty if the ball hits equipment that was positioned for that purpose (Rule 11.2a).
Reasons for Change:
- Many objects, persons and animals are present on a golf course during play; it is inevitable that a ball in motion will sometimes hit them before coming to rest, and a player is generally required to accept the outcome (whether good or bad).
- Just as there is no penalty in stroke play if one player (or his or her equipment or caddie) accidentally deflects another player’s ball, there is no need for a penalty when a player (or the player’s equipment or caddie) accidentally deflects his or her own ball.
Accidental deflections are, by definition, an accident – and this applies equally to players, caddies and equipment, which are necessarily close to the area of play.
When a player’s ball hits the player or his or her equipment, it is usually the result of a poorly played shot or an unanticipated outcome, such as when a ball bounces off a bunker wall or a tree and hits the player, or when a chip shot rolls over a green and hits the player’s cart or golf bag.
The outcome in such cases is random and unpredictable, and it results in a disadvantage for the player at least as often as it results in an advantage.
For the same reasons, there is no need to give the player the option to cancel and replay a stroke when an opponent in match play accidentally deflects the player’s ball.
Treating all accidental deflections the same, no matter who or what caused them, will greatly simplify the Rules in various situations, such as when a player’s ball is deflected by equipment being shared with another player (such as a golf cart); it will no longer be necessary to apply complicated analysis to decide which player the shared equipment belonged to at that time.