Naked Eye to Decide Golf Ball Rulings, Not TV

Changes announced today by the game’s two ruling governing bodies, the R&A and the USGA, has deemed the naked eye rather than television evidence is set to become the overriding factor in determining whether players are punished for inadvertently moving a golf ball.

The ruling follows a series of tweaks to the 2012-2013 edition of ‘Decisions on the Rules of Golf.’

For some time now television evidence has been used on an increasing basis to highlight players, the most recent being Tiger Woods who was subsequently saddled with a two-stroke penalty for his golf ball moving at the BMW Championship during the FedEx Cup Play-Offs.

Following his round, Tiger was informed of the penalty by Slugger White, a PGA Tour rules official, who then showed him the video. White revealed that Woods thought his golf ball had only oscillated slightly.

A review into TV evidence by the R&A and USGA was concluded before that incident occurred, however David Rickman (the R&A’s Rules guru), admitted it highlighted a “live issue” in the game.

This new decision provides that, where enhanced technological evidence such as HDTV, digital recordings or online visual media shows the golf ball has left its position and come to rest in another location, the golf ball will not be deemed to have moved if that movement was not reasonably discernible to the naked eye at the time the action was committed.

David Rickman said of the new ruling: “We believe that the use of TV evidence in general is both positive and appropriate for the game.”

He added: “It is important for its integrity, though, that we decide matters on the facts of cases and reach the right answer.

“That’s why we have decided to adopt the naked eye approach. It will come down to a matter of judgement. We appreciate this is not going to be easy but feel it is appropriate.”

In total, golf's governing bodies have made 87 changes to the 2014-2015 version of their 'Decision on the Rules of Golf.'

Other Noteworthy Rule Changes

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.

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.

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.