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New Rules on Video Reviews Close Door on Viewers Calling In at Tournaments

By: | Mon 11 Dec 2017 | Comments

Following consultation with a comprehensive working group, The R&A and USGA have announced an updated set of protocols for video review in tournaments when applying the Rules of Golf, effectively closing the window on viewers calling in to report potential infractions that they have spotted on television.

The group brought together the PGA Tour, LPGA, PGA European Tour, Ladies European Tour and the PGA of America, in addition to the governing bodies, and will see the following measures implemented from the 1st of January 2018.

  • Assign one or more officials to monitor the video broadcast of a competition to help identify and resolve Rules issues as they arise.
  • Discontinue any steps to facilitate or consider viewer call-ins as part of the Rules decision process.

In a move welcomed by players, a Local Rule will be adopted from the New Year that will remove the two-stroke penalty for failing to record a penalty on the scorecard when the player was unaware of the infraction, such as the example of Lexi Thompson back in April at the ANA Inspiration. This score card penalty will be permanently removed when the modernised Rules of Golf take effect on 1 January 2019.

Discussing the announcement, David Rickman, Executive Director – Governance at The R&A, said, “This has clearly become an important issue in the sport that we felt we should address at this stage ahead of the implementation of the updated Rules of Golf in 2019.

“We have concluded that whilst players should continue to be penalised for all breaches of the Rules during a competition, including any that come to light after the score card is returned, an additional penalty for the score card error is not required.”

“The level of collaboration with our partners has been both vital and gratifying as we look to the future,” said Thomas Pagel, USGA senior director of the Rules of Golf and Amateur Status. “As technology has continued to evolve, it has allowed us to evolve how we operate, as well.”

With HD and 4K HD coverage now widespread on television – and the use of slow-motion and extreme close-ups to analyse potential infractions – mistakes and movements on golf balls are now more readily seen than ever before, regularly spotting issues that are unlikely to be seen by the naked eye.

Viewers calling in and reporting issues – often rules officials watching from home – has been a controversial issue for golf in recent years, with Tiger Woods being engulfed in a particularly infamous situation at the Masters in 2013. Now that won’t be possible, as working referees on-site will assess the television coverage closely and make judgements without outside interference.

Additionally, these video reviews will be limited to content obtained from the tournament committee’s broadcast partner. Material from smartphones or individual camera will no longer be used, with these protocols being the latest measures that have been engineered to address the concern and uncertainly related to video evidence. Back in April, the R&A and USGA already restricted the use of this coverage through the introduction of a “reasonable judgement” standard and a “naked eye” standard.

Many throughout the game will see this as being a common-sense measure in the face of technological advancements, but it would be remiss to ignore the correct judgements that have come from viewers bringing attention to infractions, such as the case of Thompson and Woods. Players have a primary responsibility to understand the rules and police themselves, which remains paramount to golf remaining suitably ethical at the highest level. These changes do make sense, but the buck stops – as it should – with those competing in events.

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