Rule changes: Golfers get relief from armchair judges

R&A and USGA limit use of video evidence in the game which takes effect immediately

Lexi Thompson cries in a towel as she walks to the 18th green after her second shot during the final round of the ANA Inspiration earlier this month. Photograph: Robert Laberge/Getty Images

Golfers will no longer live in fear of a minor infringement being picked up by eagle-eyed armchair fans, after the Royal & Ancient and USGA agreed to limit the use of video evidence on Tuesday.

Golf’s ruling bodies decided, with immediate effect, to outlaw the use of video replays where an infringement is so slight that it could not have been spotted by the naked eye, such as a club touching a few grains of sand during a backswing in a bunker.

“We have been considering the impact of video review on the game and feel it is important to introduce a decision to give greater clarity in this area,” Martin Slumbers, chief executive of the R&A, said in a statement.

“Golf has always been a game of integrity and we want to ensure that the emphasis remains as much as possible on the reasonable judgment of the player rather than on what video technology can show.”


The golfing authorities, who have established a working group with the women’s LPGA Tour, PGA Tour and men’s and women’s European Tour, have acted because of advances in high resolution super-slowmos available to viewers.

Such images could also theoretically show a player unknowingly striking the ball more than once during a stroke.

The new decision will also apply when a player “made a reasonable judgement” to determine ball placement in such instances as free drops, replacing a lifted ball on the green or estimating where a ball crossed the margin of a water hazard.

“Such determinations need to be made promptly and with care but often cannot be precise, and players should not be held to the degree of precision that can sometimes be provided by video technology,” the new decision states.

This month American golfer Lexi Thompson was handed a four-stroke penalty, probably costing her victory at the LPGA's ANA Inspiration tournament, after a television viewer emailed officials to say she had not replaced a ball correctly.

"Viewers at home should not be officials wearing stripes," Tiger Woods said on Twitter in support of Thompson, who received a two-stroke penalty for not replacing the ball properly and two more for subsequently writing down the wrong score on her scorecard.