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Rules FAQ: Wind Moves Ball after Address - Is It a Penalty?

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As of Jan. 1, 2012, the answer is "no." Prior to that date, the answer was "yes." The old ruling was that once a player was at address, he was responsible for the movement of the ball, no matter what actually caused that movement. So if the golfer took his address and then a big gust of wind cause the ball to move, it was a penalty on the golfer.

Not surprisingly, that rule wasn't very popular with golfers, most of whom felt it was unfair to be penalized for something beyond their control. Then a series of high-profile incidents on the pro tours in 2010 and 2011, in which just such penalties were assessed, brought this ruling to the forefront.

Golf's governing bodies - the USGA and R&A - responded by reconsidering the wording of Rule 18-2b (Ball Moving After Address). And for the version of the Rules of Golf that took effect on Jan. 1, 2012, the penalty to the golfer relating to wind moving the ball after address was removed.

In announcing the change to Rule 18-2b, the USGA wrote:

"A new Exception is added that exonerates the player from penalty if his ball moves after it has been addressed when it is known or virtually certain that he did not cause the ball to move. For example, if it is a gust of wind that moves the ball after it has been addressed, there is no penalty and the ball is played from its new position."
Note that Rule 18-2b still assesses a 1-stroke penalty if a ball in play moves after the golfer has taken his address if that movement is in any way caused by the golfer's actions (other than, of course, making a stroke at the ball).

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