USGA announces new decisions for 2014
The USGA and R&A have announced some changes to the Rules starting next year. Technically, they released decisions on the rules and not changes.
Most of us were anxiously awaiting some sort of break-through on the irritating trend of television viewers calling in potential rules violations. We did not get any ruling regarding “equity” relative to the amount of time high profile players are televised and therefore under more TV viewer scrutiny. In fact, the governing bodies essentially have re-confirmed that tournament committees should use all available resources when adjudicating violations. The only significant thing they announced was that, basically, if the naked eye couldn’t see the ball move…it didn’t move regardless of what the HDTV in super slo-mo shows. That ruling won’t stop the phone calls and will, in fact, create more options for the committee to rule against video evidence and making it appear that certain players get preferential treatment.
The decision regarding video has no impact on those of us who play the game. Other rulings, however, do apply to us. The first change of note is to allow the use of a smart phone to gather weather information. This is not to allow us to determine wind strength or direction or any other information that will assist us in making a shot (that is still illegal). This rule is to allow for information regarding personal safety and impending bad weather.
Another decision clarifies the embedded ball rule. Essentially, the ball has to be embedded in the earth, not fluffy grass. (we already knew that, didn’t we?)
The most significant decision clarifies the provisional ball definition. Historically, we hit a ball near boundary lines or possible lost ball terrain, we had to make our decision to hit a provisional ball before we left the teeing area. If we hopped in the cart and started to pull away and then decide to hit a “provisional”, we technically were hitting our third stroke. Now the decision allows us up to 50 yards from the teeing area to decide to hit a provisional.