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Changes to the Decisions on the Rules of Golf

Artifi cial Devices he changes dove into the digital world, with a new Decision addressing “multi-functional de-

vices,” as well as one revision that could potentially change how we use phones for golf. New Decision 14-3/18 now permits golfers to access weather information on their multi-functional device without penalty. Previously, there was tremendous debate as to whether accessing gen- eral weather information was a breach of Rule 14-3 for using an artifi cial device to measure conditions that might affect play; now there is a defi nite answer. Revised Decision 14-3/4


is a complete reversal of the older ruling. This Decision previously prohibited the use of a compass during the round, but it has been revised to allow the use of a com- pass. The use of a compass had been prohibited because it could provide valuable information at courses with traditional wind directions or grasses that always grow in a specifi c direction. The reversal is because it has been determined that directional information in and of itself does not assist the player in measuring variable conditions that might affect play.

56 / NCGA.ORG / WINTER 2014

The Television Rule New Decision 18/4 is

another great example of a Decision change that has a great impact on future rulings. This new Decision essentially absolves a player from pen- alty if a breach is observed through use of television evidence, but the breach was not discernible to the naked eye. The freshest example of a ruling that would have been affected by this Decision is the two-stroke penalty Tiger Woods was assessed when he caused his ball to move while trying to move a loose impedi- ment. Woods was adamant that his ball only oscillated and did not change position, although television evidence clearly showed the ball moved verti- cally, because the logo changed position. Woods incurred a two-stroke penalty under Rule 18-2a for moving his ball at rest and not replacing it before he played the next shot. Debate has surrounded

this new Decision because it seemed like a knee-jerk reaction to the Woods ruling. However the Rules of Golf Committee has been look- ing at the issue of television evidence for some time, and USGA Executive Director Mike Davis made a statement clarifying that the new Decision was already created and approved prior to the Woods incident.


The third new Decision for 2014 was created for fur- ther clarifi cation of a change made in 2012. New Decision 18-2b/1 takes a statement that was previously in Decision 18-2b/11 and makes its own Decision. The new Decision states that gravity is not an agency that allows a player to apply the Exception to Rule 18-2b and absolve the player from penalty. The Exception to Rule 18-2b states a player is not subject to penalty under Rule 18-2b if it is known or virtually certain that the player did not cause the ball to move after address. New Decision 18-2b/1 clarifi es that in order for it to be known or virtually certain that a player did not cause the ball to move, it must be known or virtually certain that some other “observable factor” caused the ball to move. Gravity does not qualify as one of those observable factors because it is a constant, unlike wind, water or outside agencies such as wildlife or fellow-competitors.

Other Notable Revisions For those who have ever been exposed to swing inter- ference by some random tree roots that had grown through the rough and into the fair- way, revised Decision 33-8/8 now permits the Committee

By Ryan Farb, PGA Assistant Director of Rules and Competitions

Changes to the Decisions on the Rules of Golf occur every two years. Decisions, which are individual rulings for specifi c situations that could not be easily made by a Rule alone, can be as important and impactful as the Rules changes that happen every four years. This article discusses the new Decisions, and several of the important revisions that will impact the game.

to make a local Rule providing relief from such a situation. Rule 27-2 allows a player

to play a provisional ball if the original may be lost outside a water hazard or out of bounds, but the player must do so be- fore he or his partner goes for- ward to search for the original. Over the years there has been debate about defi ning “goes forward to search.” The 2014 revised Decision 27-2a/1.5 gives the player a distance of approximately 50 yards to walk forward to determine whether it would save time to play a provisional ball. The lone renumbered

Decision is actually quite a notable change, as it clarifi es that players in match play are permitted to allow their opponent to play out of turn in order to save time anywhere on the course. Previously, the Decision only permitted this on the teeing ground. If a player does invite an oppo- nent to play out of turn, he or she waives the right to recall the stroke under Rule 10-1c. This revision, however, does not permit players to play “ready golf ” in match play, because order of play is still an important component. Players agreeing to play “ready golf ” in match play would be agreeing to waive a Rule of Golf in vio- lation of Rule 1-3, and would be subject to disqualifi cation if they are aware it is a breach.

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