Category: USGA

November 19, 2013

USGA: 'Difficult to speculate' if new rule would change Tiger penalty

Posted at 3:03 PM by Mike Walker

When the USGA and R&A announced a rule change involving video evidence of a player accidentally causing a ball to move, most golf fans thought of Tiger Woods being assessed a two-stroke penalty at the BMW Championship when a PGA Tour video producer saw Woods' ball move while he tried to move a twig near his ball [see video above].

Under the new rule -- effective Jan. 1, 2014 -- a golfer who unwittingly moves his golf ball during competition may not be penalized if the ball's movement could not reasonably have been detected without the use of "enhanced technology."

That must mean that the Woods case -- where the penalty was determined after a close look at the video evidence -- would not have resulted in a penalty under the new rule, right? Not so fast. USGA rules official Thomas Pagel told's Josh Sens that it is impossible to know if Woods would have received the same penalty under the new rule.

“It’s very difficult to go back in time and speculate,” Pagel said. “The committee at the time was faced with one question -- did the ball move? -- and the evidence showed that it did. Moving forward, a number of other factors will have to be taken into consideration, including what the player could reasonably have been expected to see.”

You can read the full text of the rule change at

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USGA: No penalty if player doesn't see ball move

Posted at 8:33 AM by Josh Sens

Rules_300A golfer who unwittingly moves his ball during competition may not be penalized if that movement could not reasonably have been detected without the use of “enhanced technology.”

That’s the word Tuesday morning from the USGA and the R&A, which have been busy grappling with the growing impact of video evidence in the reporting of potential rules violations.

In a joint statement, released as part of their biennial review of the Decisions on the Rules of Golf, the governing bodies declared that a “ball will not be deemed to have moved if that movement was not reasonably discernible to the naked eye at the time.”

Seen no evil? Then you've done no evil, either.

The announcement comes in the wake of season marked by several headline-making incidents in which rules infractions came to light by way of video evidence.

Of those incidents, none was more closely scrutinized than one involving Tiger Woods at the BMW Championship in September, where the world’s top-ranked player was slapped with a two-shot penalty after cameras showed that his ball had moved as he prepared to play his third shot on the first hole of his second round. Woods insisted that his ball had merely oscillated.

But if oscillate-gate is what many fans will think of when they read Tuesday's joint statement, it’s far from the only incident that golf’s ruling bodies had in mind.

After all, questions about the influence of video evidence on the game have been simmering for some time.

In April 2011, the USGA and the R&A adopted decision 33-7/5.4, which waived disqualification for a player who signed an incorrect scorecard following a round in which that player committed a rules infraction that was later identified through video evidence.

(As golf wonks may recall, it was the invocation of that rule which spared Woods from disqualification at the 2013 Masters.)

According to Thomas Pagel, the USGA’s senior director of the Rules of Golf, this latest rules revision, which goes into effect Jan. 1, 2014, was “not a reaction to any one single incident.” Rather, he said, it was part of an ongoing effort by golf’s ruling bodies to respond appropriately to developments in the game.

Pagel said it was impossible to know whether the revised rule on golf-ball movement, had it been in place at this year’s BMW, would have changed the outcome of the Tiger Woods ruling.

“It’s very difficult to go back in time and speculate,” Pagel said. “The committee at the time was faced with one question -- did the ball move? -- and the evidence showed that it did. Moving forward, a number of other factors will have to be taken into consideration, including what the player could reasonably have been expected to see.”

In the joint statement, the governing bodies announced other rules revisions, including one that allows players to access weather reports on their smart phones during their round without incurring a pentalty.

In the meantime, the statement also said, the USGA and R&A will continue to discuss issues surrounding the impact of video technology on the application of rules, including  the “necessary degree of precision required when marking, lifting and replacing a ball, the estimation of a reference point for taking relief, and the overall question of the appropriate penalty for returning an incorrect scorecard where the player was unaware that a penalty had been incurred.”

To read the joint statement, as well as the full text of the revisions to “Decisions on the Rules of Golf,” visit or

Photo: The 1951 edition of "The Rules of Golf"

November 08, 2013

USGA 'finds religion' on pace of play

Posted at 1:42 PM by Josh Sens

Golf has been slow to respond to its slow play problem.

But at least its efforts are picking up.

Consider a recent gathering at USGA headquarters, where industry leaders met for an energized symposium called "While We're Young: Golf's Pursuit of a New Paradigm of Pace of Play."

You know things are getting serious when a fancy word like "paradigm" is tossed about. Sure enough, as Golfweek reported, respected stat-wonks were part of the discussions. They're trying to bring hard data to illuminate the many causes of slow play, from tee time intervals to course set-ups. That marks a broader way of thinking about a problem that has long been blamed largely on golfers alone.

As pace-of-play consultant Bill Yates told Golfweek: "Management has the largest responsibility. Players are second."

The USGA appears to be coming around to this way of thinking. Though its "While We're Young" campaign is directed at recreational golfers, golf's ruling body is also taking a hard look at how it runs tournaments and the influence those tactics have on pace of play.

For Jeff Hall, the USGA's managing director of rules, competitions and amateur status, this broader outlook amounts to----how to put it?----a paradigm shift.

As he told Golfweek: "I've found religion on this (slow-play-business)."

His allusion to religion is apt. All too often, 18 holes takes an eternity.

(Photo: John Mummert/USGA)

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July 01, 2013

PGA Tour decides to adopt anchored putting ban in 2016

Posted at 3:59 PM by Coleman McDowell

166643451In accordance with the decision levied by the USGA and R&A in May, the PGA Tour Policy Board voted to adopt Rule 14-1b -- which bans anchored putting strokes beginning January 1, 2016 -- in a Monday morning meeting before the Greenbrier Classic in West Virginia.

“In making its decision, the Policy Board recognized that there are still varying opinions among our membership, but ultimately concluded that while it is an important issue, a ban on anchored strokes would not fundamentally affect a strong presentation of our competitions or the overall success of the PGA Tour,” said PGA Tour Commissioner Tim Finchem in a press release. “The Board also was of the opinion that having a single set of rules on acceptable strokes applicable to all professional competitions worldwide was desirable and would avoid confusion.”

The PGA Tour did request that the USGA extend the time period for amateurs to be allowed to anchor their putters, similar to the lengthened time period for amateurs to continue using groove configurations that were declared illegal on Tour.

“The Policy Board continues to believe that extending the time period the ban would go into effect for amateurs would be beneficial for golf participation and the overall health of the game," Finchem said.

The PGA of America adopting the ban appears to now be the last hurdle in place for the new rule. The USGA and R&A proposed the anchoring ban in November of 2012. Finchem publicly announced his tour's opposition of the ban in February of 2013.

Two months later, Adam Scott became the fourth player to win a major using a belly putter. Six months after the ban was proposed, the USGA and R&A officially enacted Rule 14-1b to go into affect on January 1, 2016.

PHOTOS: Tour players affected by anchoring ban

GARRITY: Tim Clark affected more than any other by anchoring ban

(Photo: Getty)

June 26, 2013

Casey Martin booted from cart while watching U.S. Junior Amateur qualifier

Posted at 7:38 PM by Mike Walker

Casey_300Casey Martin, the disabled golfer who successfully sued the PGA Tour in 2001 to use a cart, was not allowed to ride in a cart as a spectator at a U.S. Junior Amateur qualifier in Oceanside, Calif. Jeffrey Martin of the USA Today has the details:

Martin arrived Monday at a U.S. Junior Amateur qualifier in Oceanside, Calif., expecting to ride in a cart as he followed a couple of prospective recruits around the course.

He said he cleared his plan beforehand with tournament chairman Matt Pawlak. But after five or six holes, Martin says he was stopped and told the U.S. Golf Association had found out about the cart and it was not allowed. Because Martin was officially a spectator, USGA rules did not permit him to use a cart. The controversy was first reported by GolfWeek.

"It was brutal, the worst experience of my golfing career," Martin told USA TODAY Sports on Tuesday. "The long story short: I'm living my life, doing my job, and it sucked to have that taken away. I felt like I got on the bus and they ordered me to the back or even to get off.

"It felt horrible."

David Wharton of the LA Times reports that officials at the qualifier were following USGA rules that specify a "scooter cart" for disabled spectators:

The USGA has a longstanding policy about cart use by players and caddies at its championships. Disabled spectators can drive a single-rider, scooter cart from hole to hole -- if such carts are available -- or can be transported to certain viewing spots along the course.

Martin said he had spoken with officials in advance about his need to ride. He was given a normal-sized cart but was stopped five or six holes along. The USGA says he was offered alternate transportation to specified locations but declined.

The USGA released a statement on the incident that stops short of an apology:

"The United States Golf Assn. has been and continues to be a strong supporter of Casey Martin. The unfortunate situation at the U.S. Junior qualifier stems from a misunderstanding over the USGA Cart Policy at our championship events. We regret that this misunderstanding may have caused Casey an inconvenience, but it certainly was unintentional. We have extended to Casey accommodations that we offer all disabled spectators at our championships. Despite this unfortunate situation, we continue to admire what Casey has been able to accomplish in the game as both a player and a coach."

Martin, who played in the 1998 and 2012 U.S. Opens, is now the golf coach at the University of Oregon. Martin played college golf at Stanford with Tiger Woods.

Photo: Casey Martin rides a cart during a practice round with Tiger Woods at the 2012 U.S. Open (Getty Images).

June 15, 2013

Zach Johnson says USGA ‘manipulated’ Merion

Posted at 1:21 PM by Mike Walker

Zach_merionZach Johnson during a practice round at Merion on Wednesday (Getty Images).

After shooting 11-over in the first two rounds of the U.S. Open and missing the cut, Zach Johnson told the Golf Channel that the USGA’s Merion set-up was unfair.

The accurate, smooth-putting Zach Johnson was a popular dark horse at the U.S. Open at cozy Merion this week, but went home Saturday after shooting 77. His playing partners Graeme McDowell (13-over) and Jim Furyk (16-over) -- two other Open favorites – missed the cut as well.

“I would describe the whole golf course as manipulated,” Johnson told the Golf Channel. And there’s no question who’s to blame, he added. “It just enhances my disdain for the USGA and how it manipulates golf courses,” he said.

But Merion members should not take offense. Johnson said he still loves the course. “I think Merion is a great golf course, if you let Merion be, but that is not the agenda.”


June 12, 2013

Report: USGA to lose $10 million on U.S. Open

Posted at 5:00 PM by Coleman McDowell

The selection of Merion Golf Club for the 113th U.S. Open was an expensive decision for the USGA. The small size of Merion (just 111 acres) and its location in the heart of a well-populated suburb just miles from Philadelphia forced the USGA to limit ticket sales. According to Bloomberg Businessweek's Michael Buteau, the USGA is set to lose $10 million on the event.

In acknowledging history, the USGA is squeezing a 21st Century event, its fans, sponsors and media into a course built 117 years ago. Merion, in suburban Philadelphia, is about half the size of last year’s U.S. Open host, San Francisco’s Olympic Club.

Ticket sales were limited to 25,000 a day, down about 45 percent from the typical 40,000-45,000. Fewer fans means less revenue from concessions and merchandise. The USGA, which governs the sport in the U.S. and Mexico, is expecting to lose $10 million on the event, according to a person with knowledge of the organization’s finances. The person was granted anonymity because the information isn’t public.

“I don’t think we’ll make up for the loss,” Sarah Hirshland, senior managing director of Business Affairs for the USGA, said in a telephone interview. “Clearly these line items will look different this year.”

In a Q&A published in the June issue of Golf Magazine, Mike Davis, executive editor of the USGA, admitted this year's Open would lose some money due to the size constraints at Merion, but said that money is not the deciding factor in selecting Open venues.

Is it true you'll lose money on this Open?

We've never selected a U.S. Open based on money. We want to be fiscally responsible; we know that's the engine that drives everything we do. I don't want to get off-topic, but the amount of money we put back into the game is significant. If you conservatively look at what the USGA has spent directly back into the game, it's almost a billion dollars in the last 12 years. There isn't anybody putting that kind of money back into the game. So we do need to be responsible.

But will the USGA lose money?

We find that when we go to a big venue like Bethpage or Pinehurst, they make millions and millions of dollars more. You go to a little site like Oakmont, Winged Foot, they will make some money, but after expenses, not a significant amount. And I'm excluding the television rights fee, because with that it doesn't matter if it's a big or a small site. But when you go to an ultra-small site like Merion, it's true, we won't make money -- in fact, we'll lose some money. But we look at it from a standpoint of a five-year period, and we're very comfortable with where we are.

Video: Palmer and Eastwood star in USGA slow-play video

Posted at 2:48 PM by Mike Walker

It's not often we get to see two legends like Arnold Palmer and Clint Eastwood on screen together -- at Pebble Beach's iconic 7th hole, no less. So thanks to the USGA for producing this "While We're Young" commercial as part of its campaign to speed up play. It made our day.

Tiger Woods stars in funny video to help USGA address pace of play

Posted at 11:11 AM by Gary Van Sickle

ARDMORE, Pa. -- You wouldn't expect the stoic United States Golf Association to have anything in common with Al Czervik, the mouthy character played by Rodney Dangerfield in the golf classic, Caddyshack. In fact, the USGA seems more like a Judge Smails, no-wagering-at-Bushwood type.

But the USGA is joining forces with Al ("Wang!!") for its new slow-play initiative and is borrowing one of Czervik's famous lines for its campaign. No, it's not, "Did you get a bowl of soup with that hat?" The USGA slow-play campaign is going with, "While we're young," which Czervik utters in disgust while watching Ted Knight's Judge Smails character go through an interminable pre-shot routine.

A little humor couldn't hurt the latest drive to pick up the pace of play. The USGA has determined that the slow pace of golf is one of the reason the game is losing players.

It's doing a comprehensive study on the causes of slow play and joining forces with other golf organizations in an attempt to do something about it.

That's a complicated process, but all you need to know now is that you'll be seeing a series of television commercials, all intended to be humorous, playing off the "While We're Young" theme. There's one in which Butch Harmon tries to teach Paula Creamer to deliver Rodney's line. There's another in which Arnold Palmer says the line to a slow player on a tee box (shown below), who turns around and glares -- turns out that player is Clint Eastwood, and his glare is still intimidating. And there's one with Tiger Woods (shown above), who is admonished by a couple of youngsters while playing miniature golf.

You can watch the clever spots at

June 07, 2013

Storm injures person, traps cars near Merion Golf Club

Posted at 12:30 PM by Mike Walker

UPDATE: Heavy rains from remnants of Tropical Storm Andrea caused two emergencies at Merion Golf Club in Ardmore, Pa., on Friday, according to the Main Line Times.

Heavy rains pelting Merion Golf Club Friday afternoon created two emergencies at the club which is gearing up to host the 2013 U.S. Open next week. Police radio reported that about 3: 45 p.m., two cars became stranded in high water at Tunbridge Road and Ardmore Avenue. Police and Oakmont firefighters helped remove three people from the cars.

Shortly after that, a report that a tree branch came down and injured a person near the 12th hole off of Golfview Road. He was being treated at the scene.

STORY: U.S. Open host Merion Golf Club in Ardmore, Pa., will get soaked with rain Friday, and the USGA has a back-up plan if flooding affects the course.

According to Merion superintendent Arron McCurdy, the USGA will use two holes from Merion’s West Course -- the 4th and the 5th -- in the U.S. Open if two flood-prone holes on the East Course -- the 11th and 12th -- are unplayable during the tournament. McCurdy told Golf Course Management that he expects the course to be fine when the tournament starts next Thursday: "I'm not really concerned at this point."

The remnants of Tropical Storm Andrea will dump between 2 and 4 inches of rain on the Philadelphia region on Friday, according to the National Weather Service, but the weather should be clear before the beginning of the U.S. Open at Merion Golf Club in Ardmore, Pa., next Thursday.

Meteorologist Kristin Kline said that the Atlantic hurricane season started on June 1, but that storms typically develop later in the season. The Philadelphia region averages 3.43 inches of rain for the entire month of June.

“We are getting off to a quick start,” she said, “but it’s not unheard of.”

Areas with poor drainage will probably see some flooding, Kline said, but the National Weather Service is not expecting major flooding issues in the Philadelphia area. Rainfall from Andrea will swell streams and creeks to the top of their banks, she said, but major rivers will not be affected.

After the storm passes through, the long-term forecast for Philadelphia looks benign, Kline said. More rain -- between a half-inch to an inch -- is possible from Sunday night to Monday night as a cold front passes through the area, but the rainfall will nothing like Andrea, Kline said.

The forecast for the actual tournament is excellent. Wednesday and Thursday are expected to be partly sunny with temperatures in the mid-70s and possibly the 80s by the weekend.

Storm image via

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