Golf governing bodies tweak rules over 'trial by television'

Last Updated: 19/11/13 3:41pm

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Golf's governing bodies have made a total of 87 changes to the 2014-2015 version of their 'Decisions on the Rules of Golf', among them one allowing players to make more use of modern technology during the course of their round.

The changes also reduce the ability of TV viewers to report what they perceive as breaches of the rules when players' balls appear to move without being touched, despite the movement being undetectable by the naked eye.

The availability of instant replay facilities at home has seen this trend rise in recent years with a number of armchair 'judges' phoning TV stations to flag up the alleged indiscretions.

The new Decision makes it clear that 'where enhanced technological evidence, eg digital recording or online visual media etc, shows that a ball has left its position and come to rest in another location, the ball will not be deemed to have moved if that movement was not reasonably discernible to the naked eye at the time'.

The Royal and Ancient and the US Golf Association, who meet every two years to review their rules, have added three new Decisions to their 'bible', revised 59 and have re-numbered one.

A total of 24 have also been withdrawn from the book, which contains more than 1,200 entries designed to address specific situations under the Rules of Golf.

Thomas Pagel, the USGA's senior director of the Rules of Golf, said: "The rules are constantly evolving and this review process is an opportunity for the R&A and the USGA to continue to help make the game more understandable and accessible for players, officials and others who participate in the game."

Other notworthy changes are:

1. New Decision 14-3/18 confirms that players can access reports on weather conditions on a smartphone during a round without breaching the Rules. Importantly, this new Decision also clarifies that players are permitted to access information on the threat of an impending storm in order to protect their own safety.

2. Revised Decision 25-2/0.5 helps to clarify when a golf ball is considered to be embedded in the ground through the use of illustrations.

3. Revised Decision 27-2a/1.5 allows a player to go forward up to approximately 50 yards without forfeiting his or her right to go back and play a provisional ball.

David Rickman, The R&A's executive director (Rules and Equipment Standards), said: "It is important to consider carefully new developments in the game and that is reflected in the new Decisions on the Rules which give greater clarity on the use of smart phones and advanced video technology."

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