Golf’s governing bodies eliminated penalties for violations detectable only through video evidence such as one that cost Tiger Woods two strokes in a PGA Tour playoff event this year.
The rule change, one of several announced today, follows cases where players had been penalized for an infraction only seen when reviewing high-definition replay, often after a television viewer alerted officials.
The groups delayed a decision until 2016 regarding the appropriate penalty for instances when a player turns in an incorrect scorecard when unaware that a penalty had occurred. This allows television viewers and others to continue to call in potential penalties they spot while not on site.
“The USGA and The R&A will continue to be guided by the view that, regardless of the timing or the type of evidence used, the integrity of the game is best served by getting the ruling right.”
At the U.S. PGA Tour’s BMW Championship in Lake Forest, Illinois, in September, Woods was assessed a two-stroke penalty when a freelance videographer for PGA Tour Entertainment alerted his supervisor that the top-ranked player’s ball moved while he was removing a stick and pine cone near it. The movement was only detectable through high-definition video.
Under the change disclosed in a press release by the U.S. Golf Association and Royal & Ancient Golf Club of Scotland, “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 in circumstances where the fact that the ball had changed location could not reasonably have been seen without the use of enhanced technology,” the groups said in a joint statement.
Woods was shown video evidence following his round and denied that his ball moved. He repeatedly defended his position and said his ball oscillated slightly and returned to its original spot, which is not a penalty.
The call-in rule also affected Woods. At the Masters Tournament in April, he was assessed a two-stroke penalty after a viewer called in to tell officials Woods took an improper drop after hitting into a water hazard in the second round. He avoided disqualification for signing an incorrect scorecard when Masters officials said the rules committee previously determined that the drop was legal.
In other rule modifications today, the USGA and the R&A said players will be allowed to use smart-phones to access weather reports during a round to protect their safety. They also may go forward approximately 50 yards after a shot without forfeiting the right to go back and play a provisional ball.
The changes will be in effect from 2014 through 2015 and are part of the groups’ biennial rules review.