March - 2014

Beginning January 1, 2014, the United States Golf Association implemented a total of 87 changes to the Decisions book that are now part of the Rules of Golf.

Decision 18/4 is new.

It's being called "the Tiger Rule" but the USGA denies that this new Decision had anything to do with Tiger's incident at the BMW Championship last September.

You might recall there was a great controversy over the fact that high- definition cameras filming Tiger as he moved a stick near his ball, and replays that were slowed down clearly showed that his ball moved, (although Tiger disagreed) and he was penalized two strokes for causing his ball to move. Rule 18-2.

The new Decision that went into effect January 1, 2014 is Decision 18/4 and states if a player causes a ball to move in a way that is only discernable through enhanced video technology but not "reasonably discernable to the naked eye," that the player will no longer be penalized.

This new Decision is to get back to the original intent of Rule 18-2, to protect players who argue they never knew their ball had moved nor could anyone in real time, until high-definition cameras allowed such detail to be seen.

Television Evidence Shows Ball at Rest Changed Position But by Amount Not Reasonably Discernible to Naked Eye

Q. A player addresses his ball. He observes a slight motion of the ball but believes that it has only oscillated and has not left its original position. He therefore plays the ball as it lies. Later, the Committee becomes aware from television evidence that the ball had in fact left its position and come to rest in another place, although that change of position was such that it was not reasonably discernible to the naked eye at the time of the incident. What is the ruling?

A. The ball is deemed not to have moved and therefore there is no penalty under Rule 18-2b. The Definition of "Moved" - when a ball "leaves its position and comes to rest in any other place" - does not contemplate movements of the ball that are only discernible through the use of high definition television or any other form of sophisticated technology.

When determining whether or not his ball at rest has moved, a player must make that judgment based on all the information readily available to him at the time, so that he can determine whether the ball must be replaced under Rule 18-2b or another applicable Rule. When the player's ball has left its original position and come to rest in another place by an amount that was not reasonably discernible to the naked eye at the time, a player's determination that the ball has not moved will be deemed to be conclusive, even if that determination is later shown to be incorrect through the use of sophisticated technology.

On the other hand, if the Committee determines, based on all of the evidence it has available, that the ball changed its position by an amount that was reasonably discernible to the naked eye at the time, the ball is deemed to have moved. As the player did not replace the ball, he incurs a penalty under the applicable Rule and Rule 20-7c for playing from a wrong place.

These principles apply to any review of technological evidence by the Committee, whether before the player makes his next stroke or any time thereafter. These principles also apply in a situation in which the player made no determination whether or not his ball at rest moved (e.g., because he had walked away from his ball after addressing it, was not looking at his ball, or otherwise did not observe any motion of the ball or have any reason to believe that his ball might have moved).

Before determining whether his ball has moved, it is advisable for the player to obtain information from nearby witnesses to the incident and to seek guidance from a referee if one is immediately available. (New)

Derek Duesler