The USGA's New Decision

Just last week, the USGA released a new Decision on the Rules of Golf (Decision 34-3/10) effective immediately that would limit the use of video evidence regarding Rules issues. Two standards were officially announced (although they had actually been in the Decisions previously in one form or another) that would apply: the “naked eye” and the “reasonable judgement” standards.

Many believe that this latest amendment to the Rules code is a result of the Lexi Thompson ruling (and they may be right).  In a very rare move, the Decision was released outside of the normal two year revision cycle and made effective immediately.

So let’s take a look at these two standards and how they would apply.

The first one deals with video evidence that could not have been seen with the naked eye. The USGA cites two examples:

  • When a player’s club inadvertently touches a couple grains of sand in taking a backswing in a bunker, and
  • When a player is unaware that his club has struck the ball more than once in the course of a swing

In both of these cases, if the player is unaware that he has breached the Rules, he will be deemed not to have breached the Rules even if video evidence later shows the contrary.

The second standard deals with a player making a reasonable judgement in determining a spot, point, position, line, area, distance or other location in applying the Rules. The most common of these would be determining where a ball last crossed the margin of a water hazard. Once again, if the player has used reasonable judgement in determining this point, which later proves to be incorrect due to video evidence, the player will be deemed to not have breached the Rules.

So what does this new Decision do?

  • For you and I, not much. This is geared to the televised events where video evidence is used.
  • This new Decision does NOT address viewer call-ins or emails or outside notification.
  • This new Decision does NOT address penalties applied after a scorecard has been returned (part of the Lexi Thompson ruling).
  • This signals to me that we may see some of the proposed Rules for 2019 sooner than later

Remember, use the index or the table of contents to find the correct Rule that applies to the situation and follow the Rules of Golf to help yourself to enjoy the game of golf.

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