New visual evidence rules announced

Tiger Woods
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A rule that cost Tiger Woods a two-shot penalty in September, will not be cause for a penalty beginning Jan. 1, 2014.
By T.J. Auclair
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Series: Golf Buzz

Published: Tuesday, November 19, 2013 | 9:49 a.m.

The USGA and the R&A released a statement today concerning their ongoing review of the use of video and other visual evidence in administering the Rules of Golf.

The new rule, called Decision 18/4, will take effect Jan. 1, 2014 and significantly reduces the chance of a "call-in" of rules infractions.

Most recently -- and perhaps most famously -- Tiger Woods was handed a two-shot penalty at the BMW Championship in September when his ball moved as he attempted to remove a loose impediment. Woods maintained that the ball oscillated, but didn't change position. An HD video replay showed otherwise resulting in the two-shot penalty.

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Under the new rule, if a player doesn't see the ball move with the naked eye -- regardless of video evidence -- the player will not be penalized.

The statement reads in part:

New Decision 18/4 will provide that, where enhanced technological evidence shows that a ball has left its position and come to rest in another location, the ball will not be deemed to have moved if that movement was not reasonably discernible to the naked eye at the time. The Decision ensures that a player is not penalized under Rule 18-2 in circumstances where the fact that the ball had changed location could not reasonably have been seen without the use of enhanced technology.

Beyond these Decisions, as part of the 2016 Rules review, the Rules of Golf Committees will be discussing other issues concerning the possible effect of video technology on the application of the Rules to the playing of the game, such as the necessary degree of precision in marking, lifting and replacing a ball, the estimation of a reference point for taking relief, and the overall question of the appropriate penalty for returning an incorrect score card where the player was unaware that a penalty had been incurred. 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.

Follow T.J. Auclair on Twitter, @tjauclair.

T.J. Auclair is a Senior Interactive Producer for and has covered professional golf since 1998, traveling to over 60 major championships. You can follow him on Twitter, @tjauclair.