Yesterday the USGA and the R&A told us there would be a rules announcement that would take place today and immediately go into effect. Everyone assumed that it would be in regards to the Lexi Thompson ruling that took place at the ANA Inspiration. Well, we were kind of right?

The new ruling is as follows;

A complete look at Decision 34-3/10:

It is appropriate for a Committee to use video evidence in resolving questions of fact when applying the Rules (see Decision 34-3/9). Such evidence may lead to the conclusion that a player breached the Rules or to the conclusion that there was no breach. Video evidence may also help players and the Committee in determining other factual questions such as the location of a player’s ball when it has not been found or where a ball last crossed the margin of a water hazard.

However, video evidence can sometimes present complications because of its potential to reveal factual information that was not known and could not reasonably have been known to players and others on the course. Golf is a game of integrity in which the Rules are applied primarily by the players themselves. Players are expected to be honest in all aspects of their play, including in trying to follow the procedures required under the Rules, in calling penalties on themselves and in raising questions with other players or with the Committee when they are unsure whether they might have breached the Rules.

Video technology, especially the use of methods such as high resolution or close-up camera shots that can be replayed in slow motion, has the potential to undermine this essential characteristic of the game by identifying the existence of facts that could not reasonably be identified in any other way. Such evidence should not be used to hold players to a higher standard than human beings can reasonably be expected to meet. For this reason, there are two situations in which the use of video evidence is limited:

1. When Video Evidence Reveals Things that Could Not Reasonably be Seen with the Naked Eye. The use of video technology can make it possible to identify things that could not reasonably be seen with the naked eye. Examples of this include:

When a player unknowingly touches a few grains of sand in a backswing with a club in making a stroke from a bunker.
When a player is unaware that the club struck the ball more than once in the course of making a single stroke.
In such situations, if the Committee concludes that such facts could not reasonably have been seen with the naked eye and the player was not otherwise aware of a potential breach of the Rules, the player will be deemed not to have breached the Rules, even when video technology shows otherwise. See also Decision 18/4. In applying this “naked eye” standard, the issue is whether the facts could have been seen by the player or someone else close by who was looking at the situation, not whether the player or anyone else actually saw it happen.

2. When a Player has Made a Reasonable Judgment. Players are often required to determine a spot, point, position, line, area, distance or other location on the course to use in applying the Rules. Examples of this include:

Estimating where a ball last crossed the margin of a water hazard (see Decision 26-1/17).
Estimating or measuring where to drop or place a ball when taking relief, such as by reference to the nearest point of relief, to a line from the hole through a point or to the spot from which the previous stroke was made.

So what does all of this say in simple terms?  All this is saying is that camera and video evidence will still be used in conjunction with enforcing the rules.  They are giving the rules officials reasonable judgement in looking at that very evidence.  We don’t have any issues with them using video evidence in enforcing the rules.  The problem we do have is where is the cutoff for reasonable judgement when enforcing the rules equally when not every player is on camera.  

In using the terminology “naked eye” they allow for reasonable judgement but we think that this will still leave open things for interpretation by the rules official on site.  We find it funny that they used an example in this from the Women’s US Open Playoff and not the example that everyone is up in arms about at the ANA Inspiration.  They are saying that it needed to be seen by the player or someone else close by who was looking at the situation.  So then what happens when the non golfer sitting on his parents couch calls in saying he saw something on his 75 inch ultra high def and is claiming that everyone there should have seen it?   Do they enforce it?  

The second part of the ruling brings into effect the Tiger Woods questions during his last Players Championship victory when he hooked a ball into the water on 14 and when discussing the drop location with his playing partner (as is the rule to determine a drop location) Johnny Miller was up in arms claiming that he dropped the ball incorrectly based on a blimp camera that was taken at an angle (Miller should know better as he has won a tournament or two, just ask him he will tell you).  No drop is every precise as to the exact point but these guys are really good at making them and if there is a question they will wait for a rules official to assist them.  

As Steve’s dad, Mike, texted him today,”I’m more confused than before” after the changes were announced.  Sure they “addressed” the rule but they still gave themselves a way out if they want to enforce a four stroke penalty again.  

It is funny that they neglected to look at the fact that golf is still the only sport that the “Monday Morning Quarterback” can still call in a rules violation. Is it right that someone who is not playing in the tournament can have an outcome in an event?  

They also didn’t put any stipulation around how far back that you can go to look at something.  Is it really fair that Lexi had signed her scorecard and they went back to something in the previous round that was nearly 18 holes earlier and assessed a  penalty without giving her the opportunity to even address it with the rules committee looking at the video together?  

Dads Say So we are glad they addressed the changes very quickly and we like that they are allowing for reasonable judgement.   Yes, they made improvements to the rules but they really fell short as to what they could have done.   Video evidence is necessary but who can look at it and have the ability to enforce it is something that they really should have addressed.  The disappointing thing is that they didn’t address the glaring problems with how the rules are administered.  They have really devalued the onsite rules officials and made it so that each and everyone of us are still allowed to play rules expert.  How far back can someone go to call rules in?  Lets go back to Jack in ’86 or Tiger in ’97 or any of Annika’s victories.  Earlier this year the USGA and R&A did a great job at making the rules of golf much more simple and today they took 10 steps back in over-complicating more rules.  Here’s to making the game more fun and easier to understand?!

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