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Home / Journal / Why golf is moving away from video technology

Why golf is moving away from video technology

Published on 13 July 2017
Video technology might be starting to make its mark on football, but in the golfing world there’s already a move away. So what’s happening?
Why golf is moving away from video technology

Video technology allows those monitoring sports to take a second look at key incidents, whether it’s a tennis ball crossing the line or a try in rugby.

And while it’s being embraced by a growing number of sports – with football starting to use it at various events – golf is looking to reduce its impact. We look at the state of play with golf and video technology…

What were the rules?
Up until relatively recently, video technology was used to go over certain actions in golf to judge whether something untoward had taken place or rules had been broken. This usually happened after a round was completed.

One of the key areas was in ball replacement. If the ball was not replaced on the exact same spot, video technology would pick it up and golfers would be given shot penalties.

Recent controversies
Recently, two high-profile cases have shown the extent to which video technology can – and should – be used in the game.

Jon Rahm was recently the subject of a video review after seemingly replacing his ball in the wrong spot at the Dubai Duty Free Irish Open.

But he wasn’t penalised as, although the technology did show that he’d misplaced his ball, new rulings are looking to rely more on on-the-spot judgement than video reviews.

Rahm appeared to incorrectly replace his ball on the 6th green after he moved it out of the way of playing partner Daniel Im. But the tournament's chief referee Andy McFee said that Rahm told him he’d marked it to the side and then was trying to make an effort to put it back to the side.

McFee said: “He's definitely made the effort. We're talking about the difference between the ball being lifted at 10 o'clock on the ball mark and put back at 11 o'clock, which is not a problem. Has he got it back in exactly the right place? No. But has he got it back in a place that's good enough, yes.”

Lexi Thompson was fined 4 strokes after a video review

But the outcome wasn’t so positive for Lexi Thompson, who received a 4-shot penalty during the ANA Inspiration in April.

She was told during the final round that video footage of the previous day's play showed she’d incorrectly replaced a marked ball. She was penalised two shots for the offence and a further two for signing an incorrect scorecard. She went on to lose in a play-off.

McFee added: "The big difference is that in this case, you've got an intervening act. You've got the player moving the ball marker off to the side and then moving it back again. That by itself means that the ball is probably not going to go back in exactly the right place."

The new rules
To clear up what’s going on, the R&A and USGA introduced new rules regarding video technology.

McFee described the reason behind the changes: "As a self-governing sport this game is all about players making reasonable judgements and the game has come to the conclusion that it's not right that that principle is second guessed every time somebody gets it a millimetre wrong.

"The whole purpose of that decision is to give a player the opportunity to walk away with no penalty when he's perceived to be doing the right thing."

A joint statement from the R&A and USGA said players "should not be held to the degree of precision that can sometimes be provided by video technology'' on matters of location such as ''determining the nearest point of relief or replacing a lifted ball''.

Decision 34-3/10 brings in two standards for Rules committees to limit the use of video. 

  • When video reveals evidence that could not reasonably be seen with the “naked eye”
  • When players use their reasonable judgment to determine a specific location when applying the Rules.
So long as the player does what can reasonably be expected under the circumstances to make an accurate determination, the player’s reasonable judgment will be accepted, even if later shown to be wrong by the use of video evidence.

The standards in the Decision don’t, however, change the requirements in the Rules, as the player must still act with care, report all known breaches of the Rules and try to do what is reasonably expected in making an accurate determination when applying the Rules.