Date: February 23, 2018
Author: Golf Australia

New Video Review Protocols for Golf

A working group led by The R&A and the USGA has unanimously agreed to adopt a new set of protocols for video review when applying the Rules of Golf.


New protocols

The group, consisting of the PGA Tour, LPGA, PGA European Tour, Ladies European Tour and The PGA of America, as well as the governing bodies, implemented the following measures from 1 January 2018:

> Assign one or more officials to monitor the video broadcast of a competition to help identify and resolve Rules issues as they arise

> Discontinue any steps to facilitate or consider viewer call-ins as part of the Rules decision process


New Local Rule

In addition, The R&A and the USGA have approved the adoption of a Local Rule, available from 1 January, to eliminate the additional two-stroke penalty for failing to include a penalty on the score card when the player was unaware of the penalty.

All of the organisations represented on the working group will introduce the Local Rule for 2018 and this score card penalty will be permanently removed when the modernised Rules of Golf take effect on 1 January 2019.

The R&A and the USGA established the video review working group in April to initiate a collaborative discussion on the role video footage can play when applying the Rules, including the challenges and benefits of its use and also the issues that arise from viewer call-ins. 


Important Issue

David Rickman, Executive Director – Governance at The R&A, said, “This has clearly become an important issue in the sport that we felt we should address at this stage ahead of the implementation of the updated Rules of Golf in 2019.

“We have concluded that whilst players should continue to be penalised for all breaches of the Rules during a competition, including any that come to light after the score card is returned, an additional penalty for the score card error is not required.”

“The level of collaboration with our partners has been both vital and gratifying as we look to the future,” said Thomas Pagel, USGA senior director of the Rules of Golf and Amateur Status. “As technology has continued to evolve, it has allowed us to evolve how we operate, as well.”


Limiting video review

The new protocols also recognise the importance of limiting video review to material obtained from the committee’s broadcast partner. Other video, such as from an individual’s smartphone or camera, will not be used under these protocols.

The new protocols and Local Rule are the latest measures announced by The R&A and the USGA to address concerns related to video evidence. In April, Decision 34-3/10 was issued to limit the use of video through the introduction of a “reasonable judgement” standard and a “naked eye” standard.

Video Review Protocols for Televised Golf Competitions

1. Overall Standard for Using Information from Any Credible Source

When facts need to be decided in applying the Rules of Golf, players, referees and the Committee in charge of the competition will continue to consider information from any credible source, including:

> Witnesses on the course, such as other players, caddies, referees, marshals and spectators, and

> Video of the competition that is produced by the broadcast partner.

Consideration of all available evidence remains an essential part of applying the Rules of Golf, because many things happen during play of a round that cannot be seen by the players or referees. (See Decision 34-3/9 of the Decisions on the Rules of Golf for more information on the responsibility of referees and committees in deciding questions of fact.) 

2. Protocols for the Review of Video Evidence

Although details of the Committee video review procedures may vary by organisation or by the nature of the competition, each organisation represented on the working group agrees to use these video review protocols:

a. Active monitoring of the video broadcast

The Committee will assign one or more of its officials to monitor the video broadcast. This monitoring role will include both:

> A proactive review to identify and help resolve potential Rules issues as they arise, and

> A responsive review when needed, such as to help referees on the course who ask for information on a real-time basis and to help the Committee when it is assessing issues based on something that happened at an earlier time. 

This video monitoring should result in prompt identification and resolution of almost all Rules issues that can be seen in a video broadcast. It should also help minimise the number of times an issue arises that has not been seen and needs to be addressed at a later time. 

b. No monitoring or review of communications from TV viewers

The Committee does not need or want outside intervention by viewers who believe they may have seen a Rules violation on the video broadcast.

Specifically, the Committee will not assign personnel or establish a procedure or practice to facilitate, monitor, review or follow up on viewer inquiries (such as phone calls, emails or texts) that seek to raise possible Rules violations.

Reviewing these “viewer call ins,” no matter how well intentioned they are, will not be part of the process of applying the Rules because they:

> Should be unnecessary given the Committee’s active video monitoring,

> Can be distracting to the officials in charge (as almost all of the issues reported by those who call in turn out to involve a misunderstanding of the Rules or the facts), and 

> Create an unhealthy perception of random, inconsistent and/or improperly motivated outside intervention in applying the Rules.

If later information does come to the committee’s attention, such as from the video broadcast being seen by a player or someone working for the competition or from a general public source (such as the media), that information will still be considered as with any other available information. The fact that a potential Rules issue may have been missed during the video monitoring does not mean that the Committee will ignore the information. 

c. Limitations on use of video evidence

The Committee’s use of evidence from the video broadcast will continue to be limited in the two important ways addressed in Decision 34-3/10 (which was recently adopted by The R&A and the USGA):

> A player’s reasonable judgment in making certain types of fact determinations will be accepted even if, after the player has made a stroke, video evidence shows that the player’s judgment might have been wrong, and

> Video evidence that shows facts that could not reasonably have been seen with the “naked eye” will be disregarded.

In addition, video that is brought to the Committee from a source other than the broadcast partner will not be accepted as “evidence” unless the Committee is convinced of its reliability.

In particular, this means that video from an individual’s camera, smartphone or similar device will not be used.


Local Rule Language

 “The Exception to Rule 6-6d is modified as follows:

Exception: If a competitor returns a score for any hole lower than actually taken due to failure to include one or more penalty strokes that, before returning their score card, they did not know they had incurred, they are not disqualified. In such circumstances, the competitor incurs the penalty prescribed by the applicable Rule, but there is no additional penalty for a breach of Rule 6-6d. This Exception does not apply when the applicable penalty is disqualification from the competition.”