Rule of the Week
June 20, 2016 
Ball at Rest Moved
After watching the 116th US Open at Oakmont, two thoughts have come to mind.  The first thought, old style golf courses like Oakmont are beautiful.  Its character, history, unique greens and bunkering make the championship exciting.  The second thought, green surfaces stimping at 14.5 to 15 (a smooth surface in most gymnasiums) with mounding and undulations are not a good mix.  The closely mown areas around the greens were at the same speeds as some of the fastest greens in Saskatchewan.  Triple cut and rolled makes for a slick putting surface.  As a colleague and friend of many superintendents in the province, the equipment shown a Oakmont made some of them drool.   

As a fan, the 116th US Open was exciting.  As a Rules Official and a person who has met a number of the USGA Rules Officials including Mike Davis, USGA CEO and the person who set up the US Open, I felt bad for them.  The USGA is a volunteer organization, the same as Golf Canada and Provincial Golf Associations.  When social media exploded after the Dustin Johnson incident, golf fans, sports figures, current and former professional golfers chimed in.  The statement, "there is no such thing as bad publicity!" may be disputed by the USGA board of directors.      

A player has "addressed the ball" when he has grounded his club immediately in front of or immediately behind the ball, whether or not he has taken his stance.
RULE Ball at Rest Moved
18-2 . By Player, Partner, Caddie or Equipment
Except as permitted by the Rules, when a player's ball is in play, if

i.) the player, his partner or either of their caddies:
  • lifts or moves the ball,
  • touches it purposely (except with a club in the act of addressing the ball), or
  • causes the ball to move, or  
ii.) the equipment of the player or his partner causes the ball to move, the player incurs a penalty of one stroke.

If the ball is moved, it must be replaced, unless the movement of the ball occurs after the player has begun the stroke or the backward movement of the club for the stroke and the stroke is made.

The USGA believes Dustin Johnson, during his close practice strokes which contacted the ground on the 5th hole, influenced and/or caused his ball to move shortly there after. 
Dustin stated he never addressed the ball as he did not ground the club behind the ball.  It is a judgment call by the Rules Official and The Committee.  At the time, DJ did not replace the ball however he was acting under the direction of the Referee.   
Who is right, who is wrong?   The debate will be continue for years to come.  At least one positive thing came out of the situation.  Dustin Johnson did win his first major.  Congratulations Dustin.
Points to take away:
  1. The Rules of Golf are not perfect but Rules Officials and The Committee need to protect the interests of the field and game.
  2. People are passionate about golf.  This is a great thing.
  3. The US Open is still the most difficult test in golf.  We hope 2017 US OPEN will be controversy free.
  4. Dustin Johnson is a major champion and hopefully heading to the RBC Canadian Open.  He may be the next player behind Tiger to hold both the US Open and Canadian Open title in the same year.
  5. Final point.  Addressing the ball. If you are ever playing greens stimping at 13+, never ground your putter or club anywhere near the ball, even on a practice stroke.   

Golf SK Rule of the Week Archive:

Official USGA Statement Regarding Dustin Johnson

Happy golfing and remember the Rules of Golf Matter
About Golf Saskatchewan
As the governing body of amateur golf in Saskatchewan, our mission is to grow participation in, and passion for golf while upholding the integrity of the game.


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Authored by Brian Lee, Executive Director of Golf SK

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