Finally, the moment all real golf fans who don’t have the USGA and R&A on speed dial have been waiting for has arrived. In a new rule that will go into effect immediately, both governing bodies have decided that it is time to limit the use of video evidence.
The announcement came on Tuesday and it is a welcome one.
Under the new Decision 34-3/10, the rules committee will now be able to address two situations and limit the use of video to overrule a penalty.
Situation one deals with what happened to Anna Nordqvist during the 2016 U.S. Women’s Open when she unknowingly brushed the sand with her club. The initial decision was brought to light after cameras were zoomed in so that the infraction could be seen and Nordqvist was handed a two-shot penalty.
The new decision says that if the infraction cannot be reasonably seen with the naked eye, the player will not be assessed a penalty even if the zoomed in HD replay shows otherwise.
This rule may have also been used during the 2016 U.S. Open when Dustin Johnson’s ball moved on the green and he, his playing partner Lee Westwood, and the rules official walking with Johnson’s group all agreed that he did not cause the ball to move. Johnson was assessed a penalty later in the final round after officials had reviewed the video. While it’s unclear if the new rule would have absolved Johnson of the penalty, at least it leaves the door open.
Situation two deals with reasonable judgment, which was a part of the rules changes that were announced on March 1st. This decision states that if a player does “all that can be reasonably expected under the circumstances to make an accurate estimation or measurement,” and is later shown to be wrong, they will not be penalized.
What happened to Lexi Thompson during the LPGA’s first major may not be covered under this rule considering the clarity of her incorrect placement of the ball after marking it.
This is a step in the right direction for the two governing bodies. Limiting the use of HD video, especially when zoomed in to extremes that would normally not be seen by someone standing five to 10 feet away, is a good thing.
“This important first step provides officials with tools that can have a direct and positive impact on the game,” said USGA executive director Mike Davis. “We recognize there is more work to be done. Advancements in video technology are enhancing the viewing experience for fans, but can also significantly affect the competition. We need to balance those advances with what is fair for all players when applying the rules.”
Of course, there has yet to be any mention of how this will be handled during viewer call-ins, but hopefully officials will use reasonable judgement when enforcing ridiculous penalties that cannot be seen by the naked eye and aren’t intentional.
You can view the full decision on the next page.