Technical Tips

Jan 18

Golf will no longer accept input from fans on rules violations

Golf’s governing bodies have a message for armchair rules officials who reach
for the phone whenever they think they’ve spotted a rules violation in a televised
tournament: “Don’t bother. We got this.”

Effective Jan. 1, the U.S. Golf Association, R&A and the game’s major
professional tours no longer will accept calls and emails from fans who think they
have spotted rules violations. The governing bodies – in conjunction with the
PGA Tour, LPGA, PGA European Tour, Ladies European Tour and PGA of
America – agreed to assign at least one rules official to monitor all tournament
telecasts and resolve any rules issues.

“The message is, have confidence in those conducting the event that if you’ve
seen it, they’ve seen it, and there’s no need for anyone to call in what they think
they have seen,” said Thomas Pagel, the USGA’s senior director of the Rules of
Golf and amateur status.

The move is an effort by the governing bodies to reclaim control of tournaments,
much like other sports in which rules challenges are handled by league officials
monitoring games in real time.

This issue has tarnished some of golf’s biggest championships in recent years,
most notably with the decision in April to slap Lexi Thompson with a four-stroke
penalty during the final round of the ANA Inspiration for marking her ball on the
green, then failing to replace it properly.

A viewer emailed rules officials about that possible infraction, which occurred
during the third round, but it was not verified until the final round. Thompson was
penalized two strokes for the infraction and two more for signing an incorrect

That ignited a firestorm among fans, many of whom thought the extra two-stroke
penalty was a case of piling on because Thompson was not aware of the
infraction when she signed her third-round scorecard.

The rules-makers agreed with that sentiment and adopted a local rule, available
Jan. 1, that would eliminate that penalty if the player was unaware of the
infraction. The scorecard penalty will be eliminated permanently in 2019 when
the USGA and R&A release a sweeping overhaul of the Rules of Golf.

“There was just a level of controversy that was not good for the game,” Pagel
said of the Thompson flap. “It was very unhealthy. People said, ‘The original
breach is fine. If you’re going to penalize a player, penalize a player. But there’s no need to add on to that.’ The working group stepped back and said, we agree
with that. There’s no need to add on an additional two-stroke penalty.”

Similarly, Pagel said many of the rules changes that will take effect in 2019 are
intended to do away with what he called “unnecessary penalties.”

“A lot of the stuff that people are looking to call penalties on from home – a good
majority of those penalties go away with the rules modernization code,”
he said.

The U.S.-based professional tours are on board with the changes.

“The PGA Tour has worked closely with the USGA and R&A on this issue in
recent years, and today’s announcement is another positive step to ensure the
Rules of Golf align with how the game is presented and viewed globally,” Tyler
Dennis, executive vice president and COO of the PGA Tour, said in a statement.

“The PGA Tour will adopt the new local rule beginning Jan. 1, 2018, and evolve
our protocols for reviewing video evidence as outlined.”

LPGA commissioner Mike Whan said he was pleased with the rule change and
the speed with which it was adopted. He dislikes viewer call-ins and said that
after the Thompson fiasco, the LPGA began assigning a staffer to monitor TV
coverage for possible infractions.

“As a golf fan myself, loving watching these players play at this level, I had the
same sort of frustration as some of our fans had,” Whan said. “To me, there were
certain cases where the rules, when written, probably didn’t ascertain 700 times
the naked eye of super slow-mo. And sometimes I think we had a few rules
where the penalty doesn’t match the crime.”


The Club House & More || 2537 West 12th Street Erie, Pennsylvania 16505 || E-mail Us!
Improve Your Game | Services & Accessories | Testimonials | Prices | Technical Tips | Contact Us/Directions | Specials

The Professional Clubmakers' Society