USGA: Change the ‘Ball Moves on Green’ Rule TODAY


UPDATE 6/23/16 – See Golf Magazine’s Gary Van Sickle echo the sentiments expressed here — just five days later >

USGAYesterday, the USGA showed the world that it’s run by a bunch of lawyers, and not sportsmen.

Silly old men in blue coats argued amongst themselves over process and concluded their arguments made sense, when clearly they did not. (Listen to the USGA’s mental gymnastics here.)

But there is a simple and common-sense solution if the USGA can see past their attorney-speak gobbledegook.

Yesterday’s bone-headed decision by the USGA’s Jeff Hall and Thomas Pagel to interrupt a player’s round seven holes after another rules official standing right there had already made a call on the matter was an abomination. And the cause of all of this poor decision-making by the USGA goes back to faulty logic in the recent re-writing of Rule 18-2.

Golf should be about counting how many strokes a player has taken, nothing else.

Let’s think: if I walk up to my ball on a tee and accidentally touch it and the ball falls from the tee, there is no penalty. So logically, how can there be a penalty when a player does nothing to a ball on the green and it moves?

(Please don’t answer “…well the ball is not yet in play on the tee box blah blah blah…” as marking the ball and picking it up under 20 different rules kills off the sanctity of a ball in play. Or “…well the influence of the actions of the player next to the ball blah blah blah…” because that’s fantasy world gibberish undertaken by guys who likely can’t break 100 and don’t play greens that roll 11+ on the Stimp.)

To definitively claim that Dustin Johnson took any action at all to cause his ball to move on the fifth green in the final round of the U.S. Open is as speculative as is possible. The blue coats made this hindsight decision with no facts in evidence — other than the ‘preponderance of evidence’. Yeesh.

Then to stop that same player in the middle of his round to say that he may or may not have incurred a penalty when the player had already discussed the situation with the walking official is beyond the pale, as idiotic as can be imagined. Scream and throw stuff at the TV idiocy.

So TODAY, the USGA should fix the problem they caused by apologizing and changing Rule 18-2 to this: if a player sets his ball on a green and it moves before he makes his stroke — EVEN IF HE GROUNDS HIS CLUB BEHIND THE BALL OR IF HE SLIGHTLY TOUCHES THE BALL BY ACCIDENT — the ball should be replaced under no penalty and play should continue from there as if nothing has occurred.

Because nothing has occurred.

The intent of making a stroke and the player’s integrity in deciding whether he attempted to make a stroke should be the end of all conversation on the matter.

Apply the same common sense on the putting green that is already applied on the tee box, and all of this preposterous hand-wringing, rules-official-consulting, time-wasting is eliminated.

Today, the USGA should call a press conference, profusely apologize to Dustin Johnson and the rest of the world of golf for their over-analysis, and announce the above rule change for 18-2 immediately. (Not in two years with the next review, not after some conference with the R&A, but TODAY.)

Don’t utter one sentence of justification because there is none. Apologize, change the rule, and be done with this “who / what caused the ball to move” mind game.

If the USGA won’t do this, then event directors around the world should immediately implement their own local rule revising the USGA’s stupidly thought-out Rule 18-2.

And from there, the USGA can slide into irrelevance.

“Upholding the game” my arse.

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