The R&A announced today that from January 1st 2017 the committee in charge of a competition or course now has the option to adopt a Local Rule that eliminates the penalty for all circumstances when a player, an opponent or either of their partners, caddies or equipment accidentally moves a ball or ball-marker on the putting green.
This is the recommended wording of the Local Rule:
Rules 18-2, 18-3 and 20-1 are modified as follows:
When a player’s ball lies on the putting green, there is no penalty if the ball or ball-marker is accidentally moved by the player, his partner, his opponent, or any of their caddies or equipment.
The moved ball or ball-marker must be replaced as provided in Rules 18-2, 18-3 and 20-1.
This Local Rule applies only when the player’s ball or ball-marker lies on the putting green and any movement is accidental.
Note: If it is determined that a player’s ball on the putting green was moved as a result of wind, water or some other natural cause such as the effects of gravity, the ball must be played as it lies from its new location. A ball-marker moved in such circumstances is replaced.
The reason it is a Local Rule is that the next revision of the Rules of Golf is not due until 2020 and this allows the R&A and USGA to modify the relevant rules in the meantime.
Please see the R&A website for further information