USGA, R&A To Take The Teeth Out Of Green Reading Books Starting In 2019

While the exact wording as to how green reading books will be defanged is set to come in the coming weeks, I report for Golfweek on the USGA and R&A having agreed to new language that will take the teeth out of green reading books starting January 1, 2019.

As noted in the Golfweek exclusive, the restrictions on presentation and information allowed will be made to protect the art of green reading. But there are also slow play considerations as players have begun to study the books on all parts of the course. Hole locations are calculated for players the night prior, which has never exactly exuded a sense that golfers are playing the course as they find it. 

The move is fascinating in the context of other issues facing the governing bodies on distance and de-skilling. By going after a technological advance that they view as de-skilling the game, the stage is set to consider an array of factors that have led to major distance increases. Could this lead to considering a reduction of driver head size or some other restriction to restore skill?

While I've never been offended by players using the books from a play perspective, the books become are offensive when players are not penalized for taking longer than 40 seconds.  

For the sport, defanging green reading books will impact only elite players and college golfers, but will certainly lay the groundwork for future discussions on the de-skilling topic.

R&A Chief Slumbers Says They're In Listening Mode On Distance And Touts "Collaborative" Relationship With Players

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Alistair Tait of Golfweek sums up R&A Chief Martin Slumbers' explanation of driver testing conducted at Carnoustie and notes that the random effort looks like it's part of a more proactive approach.

The R&A has had capabilities at previous Opens to test drivers for COR (coefficient of restitution) and CT “characteristic time.” In laymen’s terms, the spring-like effect of driver faces. But the governing body is becoming more proactive this year.

“We’ve always had an equipment test capability down on the range, certainly since I’ve been involved in the Open,” Slumbers said. “It’s been an option for players or the manufacturers to take their equipment in and have it tested. We felt it was an appropriate next step to more actively seek to test players’ drivers straight out of the bag.”

And from the transcript, it's worth noting that Slumbers sees the players as having a positive impression of the R&A. Whether that means in contrast to the USGA or in general, I'm not sure.

It was a request to players, and I think many of you underestimate, we have a very good relationship with our players, and it's a very collaborative relationship, and we had absolutely no problems with the players coming and were interested in what we're doing. A lot of them actually wanted to know how does the test work, and what is it really testing for?

I'm sure they loved giving up their drivers and their caddies to go find out if their club is conforming! 

Hmmmm: R&A Conducts Surprise, Random(?) Driver Test

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Thirty players were greeted with letters from the R&A ordering them to offer up their drivers for a COR test. It's not clear if the tests were random or if the players were specially chosen by their manufacturer affiliation or driving distance average.

Welcome to Scotland!

Tim Rosaforte reports for Golf Channel on what appears to be a step-up in the effort to ensure there are conforming drivers in this week's Open Championship

Keegan Bradley, Brendan Steele and Brooks Koepka all confirmed that their drivers all passed the COR test (coefficient of restitution, or spring-like effect) administered by the R&A.

This was the first time the R&A took measures that were not part of the distance insight project being done in conjunction with the USGA.

 

There are two ways of looking at this. 

The sunny side up take would believe this is just part of normal monitoring and amidst some rumblings that this year's distance increase could be fueled by hot drivers.

The cynical take says this is the act of a desperate governing body looking for something to blame this year's increases on, instead of simply anticipating that a combination of technology, athleticism, fitting and a generation of players reared on modern clubs have passed the testing procedures by. AKA, anything not to do something about the Joint Statement of Principles.

The Time Peter Thomson's Son Took The Claret Jug To School For Show And Tell...

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The Sydney Morning-Herald's Martin Blake reports on the well-attended memorial for Peter Thomson and the surprise presence of the Claret Jug, brought to Australia by the R&A's Martin Slumbers for the service.

Maybe the best anecdote belonged to Thomson's son Andrew, who brought the Claret Jug to school soon after one of his father's five Open wins. He came home crying from show-and-tell.

"What’s wrong?" Thomson said.

"They rubbished me at school," his son replied. "One boy said his father’s got a dozen of those!"

The moment, Andrew said, tickled his father, who kept touch with his roots as a public course player at Royal Park. "Because as much as professional golf, he loved club golf. He said club golf was the plasma of the game, people trying their luck and coming home with a trophy, just like him."

295's Within Reach! Huge Spike In Driving Distance Enters The Monster-Drive Season

As we head into the warm weather months and silly-long drives, the 2018 spike has a chance to spill well over the 295-yard driving distance average mark on the PGA Tour. 

Of course, this is noteworthy since the governing bodies said way back in the early years of the George W. Bush administration that they were drawing the line and have maintained little has changed. And while we know that the addition of extra fiber in diets, more widespread implementation of mindfulness and of course, drinking cold brew coffee, have driven this year's spike, the Statement of Principles said the reasoning would not matter in a decision to take action.

PGA Tour driving distance average through the Travelers:

2018: 294.7

2017: 289.3

2016: 288.2

2015: 288.1

2014: 287.8

2013: 286.4

2012 287.1

2011: 288.0

Not April Fool's: R&A Keen To Make Golf More Inclusionary For Women

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We'll give R&A Chief Martin Slumbers benefit of the doubt even as it's tempting to dig up four million links to stories about the Royal and Ancient Golf Club's steadfast refusal to let a woman enter their clubhouse, as recently as a couple of years ago.

But...Slumbers was not part of that world and he's too focused on golf's future to allow past blunders torpedo his desire to welcome more women to golf.

Alistair Tait praises Slumbers and explains the new R&A Charter:

“strengthen the focus on gender balance and provide a united position for the golf industry; commit national federations and organizations to support measures targeted at increasing participation of women girls and families in golf; call on signatories to take positive action to support the recruitment, retention and progression of women working at all levels of the sport; set individual targets for national federations for participation and membership and annual reporting of progress; and develop an inclusive environment for women and girls within golf.”

You can read the full charter story here.

Tait's commentary:

The Englishman is to be commended for this initiative. British golf authorities have previously either done too little to encourage women to take up the game, or have merely paid lip service to the issue. It’s a sad indictment of the game that we still have clubs with no female members, or even junior members.

 

It’s hard to imagine how many women and girls have been turned off the game because of the chauvinistic attitudes embedded in golf’s status quo.

I Guess We Have To: Governing Bodies Launch "Multi-Pronged" Distance Insights Project

Here goes another year in the distance discussion, all because the two PGA's have decided they want to be in the rules business. I'm pretty sure we know what the input will look like ("Don't blame the ball! "-Wally, Fairhaven, MA). 

Anyway, if they must, but Senator you can have my answer now: do something.

The USGA and The R&A Launch Golf's Global Distance Insights Project

LIBERTY CORNER, N.J. USA AND ST ANDREWS, SCOTLAND (May 15, 2018) - The United States Golf Association (USGA) and The R&A have launched a comprehensive project to analyze distance in golf and gather perspectives from the worldwide golf community.  

The Distance Insights project will examine distance through a multi-pronged approach that includes global stakeholder engagement, third-party data review and primary research. Focus groups and discussion forums will play an important role in the project, to secure a broad range of perspectives throughout golf.

Beginning today, anyone interested in the topic can provide feedback by visiting usga.org/distanceinsights or randa.org/distanceinsights or by emailing either association directly.

“The topic of increased distance and its effects on the game have been discussed for well over a century. We believe that now is the time to examine this topic through a very wide and long lens, knowing it is critical to the future of the game,” said Mike Davis, CEO of the USGA. “We look forward to delving deeply into this topic and learning more, led by doing right by golf, first and foremost.”

Martin Slumbers, Chief Executive of The R&A, said, “Distance in golf is a complex issue which is widely debated at all levels of the sport. It is important that we collate all of the relevant data and hear the many different perspectives on this issue that exist in the international golf community. We intend to conduct this process openly, comprehensively and promptly and will work with all of the key stakeholders to ensure we have a fully rounded view of distance and its implications.”   

Stakeholder groups invited to participate in the project include amateur and professional golfers, worldwide professional golf tours, golf course owners and operators, golf equipment manufacturers, golf course architects, golf course superintendents and others. 

Among the many topics to be explored, the organizations will seek distance-related data on pace of play, golf course construction and maintenance practices, the evolution of equipment, golf course design and player enjoyment and participation.

The USGA and The R&A will engage various golf industry stakeholders through 2018, with plans to deliver a report in 2019.

USGA, R&A Need More Study, Now Working In The "Spirit" Of Their Line In The Sand

Here is the distance report PDF from the USGA and R&A, followed below by the press release where two things stand out: they "remain committed to the spirit" of the Joint Statement of Principles (aka the 2002 line in the sand), which very bluntly stated any further significant increases would warrant action. "Significant" sailed long ago.

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The governing bodies also did their best Ray Guy impersonation on any immediate action, declaring another year of study because, you know, last year might have been an anomaly, we just aren't quite sure! 

The average distance gain across the seven worldwide tours was more than 3 yards since 2016.
As noted in previous annual reports, variability in driving distance of 4 or more yards from season to season on any one tour is not uncommon.

Funny how we found that four or more number. Mitzvah!

The full press release:

USGA and The R&A Release 2017 Distance Report
LIBERTY CORNER, N.J. AND ST ANDREWS, SCOTLAND
(March 5, 2018) 
The R&A and the USGA have completed the annual review of driving distance in golf, producing a research report that documents and evaluates important findings from the 2017 season. 
Introduced in 2015, the annual report examines driving distance data from seven of the major worldwide professional golf tours, based on nearly 300,000 drives per year. The data from studies of male and female amateur golfers is also included. 
The 2015 and 2016 editions of the distance report presented the increases in driving distance since 2003 as a slow creep of around 0.2 yards per year. The 2017 data shows a deviation from this trend. The average distance gain across the seven worldwide tours was more than 3 yards since 2016.
As noted in previous annual reports, variability in driving distance of 4 or more yards from season to season on any one tour is not uncommon. However, this level of increase across so many tours in a single season is unusual and concerning and requires closer inspection and monitoring to fully understand the causes and effects.
As the review of this issue progresses, the USGA and The R&A remain committed to the spirit of the 2002 Joint Statement of Principles which recognize that distance impacts many aspects of golf and that any further significant increases in hitting distances at the highest level are undesirable. 
Increases in distance can contribute to demands for longer, tougher and more resource-intensive golf courses at all levels of the game. These trends can impact the costs to operate golf courses and put additional pressures on golf courses in their local environmental landscape. The effect of increasing distance on the balance between skill and technology is also a key consideration.  Maintaining this balance is paramount to preserving the integrity of golf.
Building on the extensive research we have undertaken in recent years, we will conduct a thoughtful conversation about the effects of distance prior to making any specific proposals. We remain open-minded and our absolute priority is to ensure that all key stakeholders are involved in an open and inclusive process, and that we move forward together in the best interests of golf at all levels. There is no fixed timetable, but we will commence this process immediately and endeavor to reach a conclusion as promptly as possible.
In conjunction with the publication of the 2017 distance research report, The R&A and USGA are carrying out a comprehensive analysis of the impacts of increased distance on both the playing and overall health of golf. 
The USGA and The R&A intend to consolidate previous work conducted by the two organizations, as well as others in the golf industry, regarding the effect of distance on the footprint and playing of the game, conduct new research on these same topics to augment the current state of knowledge of the issues, and, most importantly, in the coming months, engage with stakeholders throughout the golf industry to develop a comprehensive understanding of perspectives on distance. Additional information on this stakeholder engagement will be made available in due course.
Ultimately, The R&A and the USGA remain steadfastly committed to ensuring a sustainable and enjoyable future for golf. 

Oy Vey Files: Some In R&A Don't Want To Pick A Pro To Captain A Walker Cup Team

I saw the headline on Alistair Tait's Golfweek item about the R&A running out of viable candidates to captain future Walker Cup teams because, amazingly, after all these years, those men who turn pro and earn money playing the game are in some sort of permanent purgatory. Heaven forbid they taint the young amateurs who...are about to turn pro themselves! 

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Here's the worst part: a number of former Walker Cuppers would bring a great perspective and much-needed spice to a Walker Cup that deserves more eyeballs.

Tait writes:

Former R&A chief executive Peter Dawson has considered using tour pros who had played in the match, names like Colin Montgomerie, Paul McGinley and Padraig Harrington.
“We have a problem going forward since so few Walker Cup players remain amateur,” Dawson told Golfweek.
Ireland’s Jody Fanagan and Scotland’s Stuart Wilson are two possible candidates. Fanagan was a member of the 1995 GB&I team that defeated a Tiger Woods-led U.S. team at Royal Porthcawl. Wilson, the 2004 British Amateur champion, appeared in the victorious 2003 GB&I team at Ganton.
While Montgomerie, McGinley or Harrington would raise the match’s profile, expect the R&A to go with either Wilson or Fanagan, with the latter the more likely candidate since Garth McGimpsey in 2005 was the last Irish captain.

It's rather apparent the former Chief Inspector is floating this idea publicly because he knows the 21st century would welcome former Walker Cuppers with the stature of a McGinley, Montgomerie or Harrington to captain the biennial matches. But he must be facing some seriously old-school stiffs within the R&A who, amazingly, carry on the centuries-old tradition that professional golf is barely a level above porn star in the jobs department. 

2023: Walker Cup Headed To The Old Course

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The R&A finally got the hint after the USGA awarded future Walker Cups to Seminole and Cypress Point!

Announcing a return to the Old Course for the biennial matches was long overdue and most welcomed. It's a good time to be a 13 year old budding star!

For Immediate Release:

THE 49TH WALKER CUP TO BE PLAYED AT ST ANDREWS IN 2023
26 February 2018, St Andrews, Scotland: A historic milestone in the rich heritage of the Walker Cup will be reached at the Home of Golf in 2023 when the international match between Great Britain and Ireland and the United States is played at St Andrews.
The occasion will mark exactly 101 years since the biennial encounter was first contested at the National Golf Links of America in 1922 and will be the ninth time that the Walker Cup has been played at St Andrews; more than any other venue in its history.
The Walker Cup was last played over the world renowned Old Course in 1975 when the United States team, which included future major champions Jerry Pate, Craig Stadler and Curtis Strange, defeated GB&I 15½ -8½. GB&I won the Walker Cup matches played in 1938 and 1971 at St Andrews.
Duncan Weir, Executive Director – Golf Development at The R&A, said, “The Walker Cup is the pinnacle of men’s amateur golf in Great Britain and Ireland and the United States with many of the game’s greatest players including Bobby Jones and Sir Michael Bonallack having featured in memorable matches played over the Old Course at St Andrews.
“We are excited to be bringing the Walker Cup back to the Home of Golf for the first time in nearly 50 years and look forward to watching some of the world’s most talented amateur golfers contest the match over the famous Old Course in 2023.”
Euan Loudon, Chief Executive of St Andrews Links Trust, said, “We are delighted to see the Walker Cup return to our calendar of prestigious events at the Old Course. After a near 50-year absence we hope it will produce a memorable contest and reinforce the stature of amateur golf in Great Britain and Ireland.
“I am sure many talented golfers on both sides of the Atlantic, some of whom may just be at the beginning of their golfing journeys, will be inspired by the prospect of competing in amateur golf’s premier match at the Home of Golf.”
The match in 2023 will be the 49th playing of the Walker Cup and, of the 46 matches played to date, the United States has won 36 matches, GB&I nine matches, with one match tied.
The 2019 Walker Cup will be played on Saturday 7 and Sunday 8 September at Royal Liverpool, the venue for the first ever match between teams from Great Britain and Ireland and the United States in 1921 which would become the Walker Cup one year later. 
Seminole Golf Club in Florida will host the Walker Cup for the first time in its history in May 2021 while the 50th Walker Cup will be contested at Cypress Point in California in 2025.

Coming Soon To A Theater Near You: Governing Bodies Engaging With The Golf World On The Distance Issue

The distance chatter around Riviera has included a great deal of shock over R&A Chief Martin Slumbers conceding that the line has been crossed, with nearly everyone I talked to then saying something to the effect of: "but a year ago they said everything was fine."

And I would note, that stance was taken with no shortage of hubris in some parts of the world.

I suspect the position reversal will be the first stumbling block faced by golf's governing bodies when they begin to discuss what to do about the distance explosion. And those discussions will be a big part of 2018, at least according to a Slumbers comment from Alistair Tait's Golfweek story:

Slumbers wouldn’t say what the governing bodies are planning, but they’re intent on reducing distance.

“There are a lot of options. There’s a lot of work still to be done with a lot of people, and engaging with not just the game but the equipment manufacturers and all sorts of things, but that work we now feel needs to be done."

I sensed after hearing different views at the PGA Tour level today that the R&A and USGA may not realize how few friends they've made over the years. Former R&A Chief Inspector Peter Dawson and his condescending, inconsistent positions were referenced more than once.

Those with opinions on both sides of the aisle will expect an explanation of the status quo position. Otherwise I don't expect the conversations to last very long.

Perhaps the upcoming distance report will address why there is a change in position when it was apparent long ago that there were issues on multiple fronts. If not, the discussions Slumbers referenced above will not go smoothly.  Or very far.

The Open Returns To The Old Course In 2021

As The Forecaddie notes, golf's worst-kept secret was made official with the awarding of the 2021 Open Championship to the Old Course at St. Andrews. As I noted when the news broke during Morning Drive today, this is bucket list stuff. So start saving your money!

The R&A's announcement includes some wonderful footage and images:

R&A Chief Slumbers On Distance: "We have probably crossed that line in the sand"

John Huggan of Golf World talks to R&A Chief Martin Slumbers about The Open going to St. Andrews in 2021 as well as Turnberry's prospects (2023 now at the earliest), but the real eye-opening comments came on the topic of distance.

As with the USGA last week, Slumbers is hinting that the governing bodies saw huge distance spikes last year and will be revealing so soon.

“There’s no doubt in my mind that the technology has made this difficult game just a little bit easier,” Slumbers said. “At a time when we want more people to play the game, I think that’s a good thing. But we do also think that golf is a game of skill and should be reflective of skill. If you look at the data, there has been a significant move up across all tours. We’re looking at the longest on-record average driving distance. Both of those have caused us and our colleagues at the USGA serious concern."

That sure sounds like a bifurcation case, but as we know the B word is forbidden in the rulemaking world!

Here are the strongest words out of R&A headquarters in a long, long time:

“For a number of years there has been a slow creep upwards, but this is a little bit more than slow creep. It’s actually quite a big jump. Our 2002 joint statement of principles put a line in the sand. But when you look at this data we have probably crossed that line in the sand. A serious discussion is now needed on where we go.”

Strap in, this is about to get interesting!

Rules Simplification: Be Careful What You Wish For, Pros

As we near the USGA and R&A rolling out their extensive, exciting and bold simplification of the 2019 Rules of Golf, Ryan Herrington at Golf World makes a shrewd point worth checking out: be careful what you wish for elite players.

After all, simpler rules mean you better know them!

With so many sections and subsections and sub-subsections, if you broke a Rule because you didn’t know it was a Rule to begin with, you often were forgiven for making an honest mistake. With a modernized Rules book, that defense becomes far more flimsy.

Indeed, if the Rules are going to be easier to understand, then golfers are going to be expected to genuinely understand them. In particular, golfers who make a living playing the game.

In that respect, the modernized Rules may well present a new set of challenges when they finally go online on New Year’s Day 2019.

Will Golf Be Worse Off By Rules Taking Onus Off The Player?

That's the pointed question Michael Bamberger poses for Golf.com after the USGA and R&A announced the end to viewer call-ins, penalties for scorecard signing issues caused by retroactive penalties and the creation of dedicated replay watchers.

Bamberger sees the change as "soft" and his view was echoed by some rules experts I heard from in response to the rule:

How about the responsibility to know the rules and to play by them? How about doing it correctly the first time? The whole ball-dropping issue with Tiger Woods at 15 in the Saturday round of the 2013 Masters was that he dropped incorrectly. The whole ball-marking issue with Thompson at the ANA Inspiration was that she marked incorrectly. Neither player ever stood up and said, "I take responsibility for this whole mess."

Golf, by tradition, is severe, austere, Calvinistic. Every aspect of it. That's why the spectators are quiet. That's why one player does nothing to interfere with another. That's why Joe Dey, the first PGA Tour commissioner, late of the USGA, carried a bible in one pocket and a rule book in the other when he officiated.  

I certainly agree that there is a softening effect worth considering, particularly if the softening actually leads to something worse than mere player ignorance of the rules. If there is an opening created here, as Bamberger contends, does it lead to players bending the rules out of ignorance or entitlement? A case could be made that we already see that with backstopping or the current ball mark fixing of non-ball marks on greens.

I can see where some “softening” is acceptable.

However, from the player perspective the rules have become cumbersome and with an audience looking to catch you doing something wrong and needing HD to do it, I can see where some "softening" is acceptable. Crossing the line into rule bending or breaking is where things get scary for the game's integrity.

Why Could Replay Reviews Still Occur After A Card Is Signed?

This remains the one question I have from Monday's announcement of an end to viewer call-in tips and penalties for signing cards that were thought to have been signed correctly at the time.

As explained by theUSGA's Thomas Pagel and R&A's David Rickman, a review could still take place on, say, Friday, after something occurred on Thursday. Only now, the player will not be penalized for signing an incorrect card should a penalty be assessed by the review.

As we noted onMorning Drive, this leaves open the question of how such a delayed review would take place if the tour's had an official watching the live telecasts. Any review over a few minutes past the round's conclusion would only occur because the official missed it the first time. In this case, the official would only be working off of some sort of outside tip to review a possible infraction.

Ron Sirak, appearing a few minutes before me on Morning Drive, raised the suggestion of reviews no longer happening once the card is signed.I would agree.

I'm sure the tours and governing bodies have considered scenarios and have their reasons. Then again, we thought going from DQ to penalty strokes would solve things and as Ryan Herrington notes at Golf World, that wasn't so.

Interestingly, the two-stroke penalty only went into effect in 2016 when USGA and R&A implemented the most recent changes to the Rules of Golf. Prior to that, players would be disqualified if they had signed their scorecards and were later found to have committed a penalty that they had not accounted. In changing the rule to be more lenient, officials acknowledged a DQ was a punishment that didn’t fit the crime.

Lexi Thompson, the cause for this emergency local rule, praised the organizations.

Golfweek's roundup of player reactions is here. Lexi's post:

I was informed of the two rule changes this morning from my management team at Blue Giraffe Sports. I applaud the USGA and the R & A for their willingness to revise the Rules of Golf to to address certain unfortunate situations that have arisen several times in the game of golf. In my case, I am thankful that no one else will have to deal with an outcome such as mine in the future. I just finished an amazing week at the QBE Shark Shooutout in Naples, and I am excited to begin my offseason. I will have no further comment on these changes as I look forward to now spending time with my family and friends. I hope everyone has an awesome Holiday season, and I wish everyone a healthy and happy 2018! 🎁

A post shared by Lexi Thompson (@lexi) on Dec 11, 2017 at 5:32am PST

Five Families To Rules Geeks: Stop Calling, We've Got This

It took emergency meetings atThe Masters, all sorts of embarrassment and even more meetings, but apparently the Five Families have agreed to no longer take rules infraction calls. Whether this means a replay center will be created or merely a lot of golf watching will take place between a rotating set of officials, the USGA, PGA Tour, PGA of America and R&A say stop calling them!

Martin Kaufmann,writing for Golfweek.com with the details:

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.

From what I'm hearing on Morning Drive appearance by the USGA's Thomas Pagel and the R&A's David Rickman, the video reviews will largely be off of the telecast and will vary week to week depending on the tour's in question.

They also stated replay inquiries can occur within the tournament for any round, meaning they might come back the next day and review something with a player. However, this would seem to mean the video replay official missed something, prompting a review. That's not going to be pretty since most will assume a review a day or two after a round was prompted by social media or a viewer tip.

Not accepting fan video is the right move, but what if a Golf Channel crew shooting for highlights shows captures an HD view and angle that exonerates a player?

Also unclear: is The Masters on board?

Beth Ann Nicholsconsiders what this means forLexi Thompson and the redemption for her with this change, plus her reaction when informed yesterday.

The full press release:

Video Review Protocols Introduced for

Broadcasted Golf Events

USGA and The R&A to adopt Local Rule to eliminate scorecard penalty

FAR HILLS, N.J. USA and ST ANDREWS, SCOTLAND (December 11, 2017) -  A working group led by the USGA and The R&A has unanimously agreed to adopt a new set of protocols for video review when applying the Rules of Golf.

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, will implement the following measures from January 1, 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

In addition, the USGA and The R&A have approved the adoption of a Local Rule, available from January 1, 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 organizations represented on the working group will introduce the Local Rule for 2018, and this score card penalty will be permanently removed when the modernized Rules of Golf take effect on January 1, 2019.

The USGA and The R&A 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. 

“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.” [To watch an interview on usga.org with Pagel on Video Review, plus a copy of the protocols and full Local Rule, click here]

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 penalized 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 new protocols also recognize 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 USGA and The R&A 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.

Update

on 2017-12-11 21:01 by Geoff

**Our conversation on Morning Drivecentered around the scorecard and statute of limitations on a review, which is still an issue.

USGA's Davis: Distance Explosion Impact Has Been "Horrible"

In what's increasingly smelling, sounding and feeling like a buildup to a serious product-driven discussion about how to deal with the distance chase, the Wall Street Journal's Brian Costa talks to several about where we are headed.

The Saturday WSJ piece (thanks reader JB) is titled "Golf Weighs Big Shift To Reduced-Distance Golf Balls" and says golf's governing bodies are discussing "different balls for different levels of the game."

This is similar to something the USGA's Mike Davis floated in March and now Costa reports:

“I don’t care how far Tiger Woods hits it,” Davis said. “The reality is this is affecting all golfers and affecting them in a bad way. All it’s doing is increasing the cost of the game.”

For those of you more recent readers, you may not know it, but these may be the strongest comments yet from a governing body figure related to the distance explosion's impact.

The concept Davis is floating would leave it to other groups, from the PGA Tour all the way down to private clubs, to decide which category of balls is permitted on any given course. It could also create new options on the lower end of the sport.

“What if we said to get more little kids into the game, we’re going to come up with a conforming golf ball that’s the size of a tennis ball, to help them hit it up in the air?” Davis said. “We are really trying to think outside the box.”

One question to be answered is which groups would mandate the use of reduced-distance balls. PGA Tour commissioner Jay Monahan declined to comment. Until someone requires golfers to use something other than the best-performing balls they can find, manufacturers will have little reason to bring reduced-distance balls to market.

Unless of course their favorite pros are playing them to play courses as they were meant to be played.

But as Davis notes, there are potential options to that also help kids, beginners or seniors potentially enjoy the game more as part of this solution.

“You can’t say you don’t care about distance, because guess what? These courses are expanding and are predicted to continue to expand,” Davis said. “The impact it has had has been horrible.”

Every party involved has some incentive not to force the issue. If the governing bodies tried to mandate a more restrictive ball for all golfers, they would face a massive fight from equipment companies. Those companies thrive by making a hard game easier, not harder. The PGA Tour relies on eye-popping distance numbers to highlight the skill and athleticism of its stars, which isn’t always apparent to the naked eye.

Brian Mahoney, head of the New York-based Metropolitan Golf Association, said elite amateur events like the ones his group organizes would be receptive to a reduced-distance ball. But for the idea to be more than an option presented by the governing bodies, some influential club would need to be the first to adopt it.

Costa floats the concept of a Masters ball and Fred Ridley's recent statement that they would prefer not to go that route. Which is why the mandate to play such a ball will come from a classic that is dealing with safety issues and other questions about its integrity brought on by the distance chase.

As to the timing of this, the comments of Davis follow March's first mention of variable distance balls, Martin Slumbers bringing up the distance "movements" at The Open, Tiger's pointed comments to Coach Geno and Bridgestone's CEO endorsing a tournament ball.