Golf will no longer take TV viewer calls on rules violations

Golf’s ruling bodies have announced that golf tournaments will no longer be accepting viewer call-in’s in regard to player rules violations.

In light of the chaos that followed Lexi Thompson’s dodgy ball marking and subsequent penalty at the ANA Inspiration event, the R&A and USGA have decided that of January 1, 2018 a local rule will be introduced that will prohibit TV viewers from influencing the outcome of rules violations during a golf tournament.

Previously, TV viewers were able to call in to inform tournament organisers of potential rules violations by golfers. But in a statement released today this will no longer be allowed with tournament officials will be monitoring the video feed.

Several controversies featuring high-profile golfers over the past few years lead to the ruling including Lexi Thompson’s four-stroke penalty earlier this year and Tiger Woods’ penalty at the 2013 Masters Tournament.

Needless to say, Lexi Thompson was pleased with the announcement:

In addition, the R&A and USGA have also decided to scrap the two-stroke penalty that is normally applied for a golfer signing an incorrect scorecard when the player was unaware of the penalty before-hand.

Both these rules are sensible ones however there are still plenty of tricky and potentially ugly situations that will most likely arise in future.

For example, what if these rules had been in place before the Lexi Thompson incident? The tournament officials may have picked up the indiscretion but if they hadn’t she may have gone on to win the tournament among a huge outcry on social media.

The full announcement from the USGA:

A working group led by the USGA and The R&A has unanimously agreed to adopt a new set of protocols for video review when applying the Rules of Golf.

The group, consisting of the PGA Tour, LPGA, PGA European Tour, Ladies European Tour and The PGA of America, as well as the governing bodies, will implement the following measures from January 1, 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 addition, the USGA and The R&A have approved the adoption of a Local Rule, available from January 1, to eliminate the additional two-stroke penalty for failing to include a penalty on the score card when the player was unaware of the penalty. All of the organizations represented on the working group will introduce the Local Rule for 2018, and this score card penalty will be permanently removed when the modernized Rules of Golf take effect on January 1, 2019.

The USGA and The R&A established the video review working group in April to initiate a collaborative discussion on the role video footage can play when applying the Rules, including the challenges and benefits of its use and also the issues that arise from viewer call-ins.

“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.”

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 penalized 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 new protocols also recognize the importance of limiting video review to material obtained from the committee’s broadcast partner. Other video, such as from an individual’s smartphone or camera, will not be used under these protocols.

The new protocols and Local Rule are the latest measures announced by the USGA and The R&A to address concerns related to video evidence. In April, Decision 34-3/10 was issued to limit the use of video through the introduction of a “reasonable judgement” standard and a “naked eye” standard.

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