Golf governing bodies tweak rules to kill penalties from enhanced video

Tiger Woods
Getty Images
Tiger Woods and his PGA Tour compatriots have seen the U.S. Golf Association and Royal & Ancient establish new guidelines involving video twice in the past two years.
By
Doug Ferguson
Associated Press

Series: PGA Tour

Published: Tuesday, November 19, 2013 | 10:24 p.m.

NAPLES, Fla. – Golf took another stand against video evidence Tuesday by announcing a new decision that would not penalize a player whose ball moves at rest if the movement is only detected by enhanced pictures. 

It was the second time in the last two years that the U.S. Golf Association and Royal & Ancient have established new guidelines involving video. 

The next edition of "Decisions on the Rules of Golf" effective Jan. 1 will include three new decisions, the most significant being 18/4. It says that when "enhanced technological evidence" shows that a ball moved, it will not be deemed to have moved if not "reasonably discernible to the naked eye at the time." 

The new decision did not stem from Tiger Woods being penalized two shots in the BMW Championship in September. His ball moved barely a dimple as he tried to remove a twig from in front of the ball. The movement was captured by a videographer, and the violation was detected by an editor going through the film. Even after watching video after his round, Woods said he thought the ball only oscillated. 

At the time, rules officials already had gone through multiple drafts of the new decision. 

Decision 18/4 instead was an offshoot of Decision 33-7/4.5 in 2011. Under that decision, officials can waive disqualification for an incorrect scorecard if a player was unaware of a rules violation. The example was Peter Hanson, who double-hit a chip shot. The violation was only detected through HDTV played in super slow-motion. 

Thomas Pagel, the USGA's senior director of rules and competition, said an example of Decision 18/4 would be a player addressing his ball in the rough, and only a camera zoomed in on the ball showed it moving fractionally based on the blades of grass around the ball. In that case, the player would have no idea it had moved. 

The "Decisions" are updated every two years. The Rules of Golf are updated every four years. 

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The latest decisions were part of a movement by the USGA and R&A to deal with increased advances in video technology. In a joint statement, they said the Rules of Golf committees continue to look at other issues related to video. That includes the precision in marking, lifting and replacing a golf ball; estimating where to take relief; and the appropriate penalty for returning an incorrect scorecard when the player was unaware of a violation. 

"As is true of the rules in many other televised sports, adapting to developments in technology and video evidence is an important ongoing topic in making and applying the Rules of Golf," the statement said. 

What remains unaffected is television viewers reporting potential violations. Golf officials say it is important to consider all evidence from any source. The only change is that a player might not be penalized if the only clear evidence is from enhanced video. 

The other chances to the 2014-15 edition of "Decisions:" 

--Decision 14-3/18 allows players to use smart phones to access weather reports. The new decision also clarifies that players are permitted access to information on the threat of an approaching storm for their own safety. 

--Decision 25-2/0.5 was revised to clarify when a golf ball is embedded. Officials have noticed an increase in tour players asking for relief, and a debate on whether the ball has broken through the soil. The revised decision will be accompanied by illustrations. 

--Decision 27-2a/1.5 was revised to allow players to go forward 50 yards without losing their right to return to play a provisional ball. 

The new edition of "Decisions" includes three new decisions and 59 revised decisions, while 24 decisions were taken out. Pagel said this done for the sake of clarity.