The USGA and The R&A have introduced a Local Rule that eliminates the penalty when a ball is accidentally moved on the putting green.
This change is effective January 1, 2017 and modifies Rules 18-2, 18-3 and 20-1.
Any tournament committee wishing to introduce this new Local Rule should use the following language:
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."
In plain language what this new Local Rule allows a golfer to do is replace his ball on the green if he accidentally kicks it, drops his ball-marker on the ball causing it to move, accidentally drops his ball on the ball-marker and it moves, and when addressing the ball with his putter, accidentally touches the ball and it moves. In any of these instances, the golfer is not penalized and he must put the ball back in its original spot.