I’m glad to hear that the rules makers are considering modifying Rule 18-2b: “Ball moving after address” when changes are announced in 2012. It would be a welcomed revision that would allow for a ball that moved to be replaced without penalty if the movement was found to be from outside influence like wind or gravity and not caused by a player.
This wouldn’t have help Webb Simpson, who was penalized a stroke when his ball moved as he addressed it after walking up to tap it in the cup from inside a foot on the 15th green of the final round when he was leading the Zurich Classic. It was obvious that putting his putter down a few inches behind the ball did not cause it to move. Eventually, Simpson lost a playoff to Bubba Watson.
“The unfortunate thing and the reason I don’t think it’s a good rule is golf is supposedly the last gentleman’s game,” Simpson said. “There is so much on the player to call the penalty on themselves. When wind or other natural things affect the golf ball, the player shouldn’t be penalized.”
Of course, players of his caliber should realize that when playing in gusty conditions under the current rules that they should consider following the lead of Jack Nicklaus and not ground their putters, which is considered addressing the ball.
A USGA official reported in various publications that the rule was already under scrutiny before the Simpson penalty.
Playing in Texas, I’ve seen the wind move the ball a lot on the greens. In fact, I saw my putt that was clearly on the high side of the cup where the ball appeared at rest fall into the hole in a recent tournament. The winds were gusting to 35 mph and I had not even moved to tap in for what appeared to be a bogey. Of course, I’ve also seen the ball move farther from the hole and that is considered a rub of the green and the ball has to be played from the new position.