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Rule of the Month

 February 2024 - Ball Moved by Natural Causes

Ball moved by natural forces: The default rule for a ball in play and at rest, having been
moved by natural forces (i.e. by wind, water or simple gravity) is that no penalty is incurred
and the ball must be played from its new spot. There are two exceptions to this when the
ball must be replaced, without penalty, and played from its original spot:

• on the putting green, but only after the ball has already been lifted and replaced
• if the original, or another ball, has been put into play by dropping, placing or
replacing it and natural forces have caused the ball to move and come to rest in
another area of the course (or OB)

This second exception came into force last year after an incident in 2019 involving Ricky
Fowler. He had hit his ball into a red penalty area, taken his relief and the ball was at rest on
a slope. While he was preparing for his next stroke, his ball rolled down the slope and back
into the penalty area. Under the rules at the time he was required to take further penalty
relief. The R. & A. rightly considered that unfair. Note that free replacement only applies in
this situation if:

• the ball was at rest and it is agreed that natural forces have caused the movement
• the ball comes to rest in another area of the course. In the Fowler incident, the ball
was at rest in the general area, and gravity caused it to roll into another area of the
course (penalty area)

NB: Replacement when not permitted, or failure to replace as required will incur the ‘wrong
place’ penalty.











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