One of our members has asked for clarification on Ray Rules No. 20. Here is the text of the message:

Dear Ray,

I always thought wind was not an outside agency and therefore no penalty if ball moved by either wind or rain. There is a difference between a "dog"- outside agency - and wind or rain. Your explanation would appear to make them the same.

I think also you have complicated the matter by your definition of "addressed" the ball. How can you say the grass supports the club? No club stands on its own! Your definition leaves the way open for many a dispute....

The correct definition is "once you have grounded your club either behind or in front of the ball" - even if you haven't taken your stance. - Nothing about compression!

Maybe you will think about my comments and possibly make the appropriate amendment.

Thank you for commenting on Ray Rules No. 20.

As you say, wind is not an outside agency, but it is not correct to say that a player was not penalised if wind moved the ball. It meant a one shot penalty and the ball had to be replaced if the wind caused it to move after the player had addressed it.

It was not a penalty if wind caused the ball to move before the player addressed it, and in that case the ball was played from its new position, i.e. it was not replaced.

The new “Exception” to Rule 18-2b now exonerates a 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 a gust of wind moves the ball after it has been addressed, there is no penalty and the ball is played from its new position.

You quoted the new “Definition” for “Addressing the Ball” which has been amended so that the player has addressed the ball by grounding his club immediately in front or behind the ball, regardless of whether or not he has taken his stance.

You feel I have complicated matters by using the word “compression”, and in grouping wind and dog together when explaining the Rule change. In my defense I have to point out that these are not my definitions, but rather those of the R & Aand the USGA.

Prior to this year the Rules had the following Q & A in Rule 18-2b/5.

Question: When is a club considered grounded in long grass?

Answer: When the grass is compressed to the point where it will support the weight of the club. Rule 18-2b/5 as of this year had been amended.

Question: A player’s ball is at rest. He rests his club on the grass immediately behind the ball and the ball moved. What is the ruling?

Answer: If the grass had been compressed to the point where it would support the weight of the club, the club is considered grounded. Therefore, the player has addressed the ball and Rule 18-2b applies. The player incurs a one stroke penalty and must replace the ball unless it is known or virtually certain that some other agency, (e.g. a dog or wind), caused the ball to move.

If the grass had not been compressed to the point where it would support the weight of the club, the player has not grounded his club and, therefore has not addressed the ball. The player incurs no penalty under Rule 18-2b but he is subject to penalty under Rule 18-2a if the player’s action caused the ball to move. (New).

The grouping by the R&A of “wind” and “dog” as an agency is not to suggest that wind is an outside agency, whereas the dog is. This is clear from the definitions. What they have in common, in this case, is that there is no penalty if either of them caused the ball to move. However, the difference is that the ball is not replaced in the case of wind moving it, but must be replaced in some cases if a dog is the culprit.

Ray Wilson