On slick greens in windy conditions, it might be wise to follow the example of Jack Nicklaus and not ground your putter after taking your stance. That way, you have not actually addressed the ball.
I can recall one time at the Masters where Nicklaus’ ball at rest on the ninth green at Augusta ( steep slope from back to front) rolled closer to the hole when he prepared to putt. He at first appeared ready to replace the ball until informed by a rules official that since he had not grounded the putter, there was no penalty and the ball was in play where it came to rest.
If your putter touches the green after you have taken your stance and the ball moves, you would be subject to a penalty as LPGA player Christie Kerr found out in a 2009 event. Kerr had a difficult time getting her ball to not move on the green when she tried to replace it after marking it. In fact, she marked it five times. When she started to putt, the ball rolled down the slope. She then putted from the new position and holed out.
Some armchair rules experts who saw it on television quickly got on the telephone with LPGA rules officials, who then took a look at a replay on television. They decided she had addressed the putt, but waited until the round was over to inform Kerr that she would be penalized one stroke because the ball moved after she addressed it and another stroke because she didn’t replace it. Kerr at first didn’t think she had grounded the putter, but the replay showed otherwise.
Kerr did learn a valuable lesson and used it later in the tournament. Faced with a similar problem of getting her ball to stay stationary on one of the sloping greens, she called a rules official over. They found a place nearby where the ball would not move and she holed that putt for an eagle.
Here’s another tip to avoid a possible penalty when windy conditions exist or when your ball is precariously balanced and there is chance it might move.
The “Decisions on the Rules of Golf’ state that a player who steps away after taking his stance and starts over can still be penalized if the ball moves. However, if he marks the ball, then the presumption inherent in the rules that the act of addressing the ball caused it to move is no longer valid. If it moves after the ball has been replaced and he has not taken his stance, there is no penalty and he putts from the ball’s new position.
Does that mean if it rolls into the cup that you have holed out with the previous stroke? Yes!
Of course, the ball could also roll farther from the hole, or even out of bounds or into a hazard if it was on a slope near those white stakes or near red or yellow stakes indicating a hazard.
One other thing to remember is not to replace the ball if it happens to move even if your marker is still on the green. I recall where a LPGA player was penalized one stroke for moving her ball when she replaced the ball, thinking that was the correct procedure. Even her two fellow competitors thought so until a rules official informed them otherwise. The ball moved again after she picked up the mark. That’s when they called for a rules official. If she had putted, she would have received a two-stroke penalty for playing from a wrong location