The USGA and R&A announced Tuesday that players will no longer be penalized when a ball’s movement could be detected only through the use of enhanced technology.
The new stipulation, called Decision will take effect Jan. 1, 2014.
“The rules of golf are constantly evolving,” USGA Senior Director of Rules of Golf Thomas Pagel said in a statement. “The Decisions 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.”
One of the more high-profile examples of such a situation occurred earlier this year when Tiger Woods was assessed a two-stroke penalty at the BMW Championship after his ball was deemed to have moved as he attempted to clear loose impediments around it. A videographer spotted the potential violation and alerted officials, the replay reviewed and a penalty issued to Woods.
That incident, however, was not the catalyst for change. The USGA and R&A had been discussing it for two years, an the announcement came as part of the customary two-year Decisions review cycle.
“It is important to consider carefully new developments in the game,” said R&A executive director David Rickman. “That is reflected in the new decisions on the rules which give greater clarity on the use of smart phones and advanced video technology.”
Other notable changes included:
— As of Jan. 1, 2014, players will be allowed to access weather reports on their smartphones during a round in order to protect their own safety.
— Illustration was added to help to clarify when a golf ball is considered to be embedded in the ground.
–A player is allowed to go forward up to approximately 50 yards without forfeiting his or her right to go back and play a provisional ball.