USGA and R&A Limit Video Evidence But Viewer Rule Still Alive

What’s interesting about the USGA and R&A’s latest Decision 34-3/10 is not so much what they decided and announced. It will be most interesting to see what happens when the new standards come into play during a pro tournament.

On Tuesday, the USGA and R&A announced two scenarios where the use of video will be limited and players can possibly avoid being penalized:

  1. When video shows something not reasonably seen by the naked eye
  2. When a player exercises reasonable judgment

Regarding the naked eye standard, if the rules committee decides that whatever happened could not reasonably have been caught with the naked eye and the player was unaware of a possible violation, he or she will avoid a penalty even if video evidence shows a violation. The standard is whether the player or someone nearby watching could have seen the potential violation.

As for the reasonable judgment standard, it applies to situations such as when players have to “determine a spot, point, position, line, area, distance or other location on the course to use in applying the rules.” In such instances, players will not be held to the pinpoint accuracy of video evidence, but rather to what is reasonable under the circumstances.

Even if the tape later reveals that the player was wrong, as long as he or she acted reasonably, no penalty will be assessed. Things like the player’s actions in context and his or her explanation of them, among others, will be taken into consideration.

Ultimately, it seems that the USGA and R&A stopped well short of addressing the main controversial issue surrounding the Lexi Thompson penalty — the fact that a fan brought attention to it.

USGA Executive Director & CEO Mike Davis did however, say the job is far from over:

“This important first step provides officials with tools that can have a direct and positive impact on the game. 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.”

Chief Executive of the R&A, Martin Slumbers, stressed how golf is a game based on an honor system, saying, “We have been considering the impact of video review on the game and feel it is important to introduce a Decision to give greater clarity in this area. Golf has always been a game of integrity and we want to ensure that the emphasis remains as much as possible on the reasonable judgment of the player rather than on what video technology can show.”

It is entirely possible that the USGA and R&A will make even more changes before January 1, 2019, which is when a whole set of proposed rule changes will be installed. They have formed a group from all of golf’s professional tours to review the current rules and recommend further changes, if any.

For now, we will just have to wait and see, and judge these new standards once they come into play during a tournament.

Check out the complete Decision 34-3/10 here.


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