Tuesday, 14 January 2014

Amendments to Decisions on the Rules Revisited

Of the many amendments to the Decisions of Golf that became effective from 1st January, the one that received the most media coverage concerned the use of video and other visual evidence (such as HDTV, digital recording and on-line visual media), which has brought a new level of scrutiny to Rules issues arising in elite golf tournaments**. However, I am going to highlight a number of minor amendments that are probably more relevant to the amateur golfer.
  • The amendment to Decision 14-3/4 permits the use of a compass during a round. More importantly, it clears the way for players to use an iPhone with a distance measuring application, providing a Local Rule permits the use of distance measuring devices. Previously, the presence of an inbuilt compass that could not be deleted from a smart phone meant that they could not be used for this purpose. (Edit 16th January: This R&A article, 'Your Distance Measuring Device Questions Answered' confirms that the inbuilt spirit level on an iPhone does not preclude it from being used, provided that spirit level is not used in a manner that might assist play.)
  • Amendments to Decisions 1-1/1, 1-3/7, 2-1/1.5 and 2-1/4 clarify that opponents in match play will not be disqualified for breaching Rule 1-3, if they are not aware that they are agreeing to breach a Rule.
  • Note that this paragraph will no longer be relevant after the Rules of Golf revisions dated 1st January 2012 become effective.                                The new Decision 18-2b/1 (the old Decision with the same number was withdrawn) clarifies that the effects of gravity do not satisfy the Exception to Rule 18-2b. So, if a player has addressed their ball, by grounding their club immediately in front to or behind their ball, and it subsequently moves in calm conditions, the player does not escape the penalty of one stroke if the cause of the movement was gravity, and the ball must be replaced.
  • To supplement the amended text of Decision 25-2/0.5 there is an accompanying diagram. This is an important area for all golfers and so I am reproducing the Decision in full;
A ball is deemed to be embedded in the ground only if:
the impact of the ball landing has created a pitch-mark in the ground,
the ball is in its own pitch-mark, and
part of the ball is below the level of the ground.
Provided that these three requirements are met, a ball does not necessarily have to touch the soil to be considered embedded (e.g., grass, loose impediments or the like may intervene between the ball and the soil).
Any doubt as to wheth
er a ball is embedded should be resolved against the player. (Revised)

  • The amendment to Decision 27-2a/1.5 has the effect of permitting a player who has just played a stroke to go forward a short distance (approximately 50 yards) to determine whether it would save time to play a provisional ball. Previously, he could not return to play a provisional once he, or his partner, had left the area of the stroke to go forward to search.
  • I am not going to go into the detail of the amendment to Decision 30/2.5, as the circumstances are uncommon, but it provides an unusual example of an amended Decision resulting in a player incurring a penalty that did not apply previously. (For those that have a copy of my ‘999 Questions’ book, or eBook, the answer to question 990 is now ‘D’).
  • Decision 33-8/8 permits a Committee to introduce a Local Rule providing relief under Rule 25-1, Abnormal Ground Condition, for interference from exposed tree roots when a ball lies on a closely-mown area.
  • Decision 33-8/16 recommends that Committees do not make a Local Rule making water hazard and ground under repair stakes immovable obstructions, as this may result in players being penalised for removing them.
Good golfing,

** Click here for a link to the joint statement by R&A and USGA on use of video and other visual evidence.

This is a good time to purchase my book, ‘999 Updated Questions on the Rules of Golf’, as I have just updated it to take account of the amendments to the Decisions of Golf 2014-2015 that became effective on 1st January. Six of the seven reviews on Amazon/Kindle give it the maximum rating of five stars (the other reader gave it four stars). However, if you purchase it through my ‘Rhodes Rules School’ web site it will cost you less and you will receive a .pdf file (for computers) as well as the .mobi file (for eReaders, tablets and smart phones).

The above content is strictly copyright to Barry Rhodes © 2014 and may not be copied without permission.


JoostV said...

it clears the way for players to use an iPhone with a distance measuring device,

No, it doesn't. The iPhone also features slope measuring functionality (in the compass application, swipe left) that cannot be disabled or removed.

Barry Rhodes said...


I have emailed a longer reply to you personally, but for others reading this thread it is my understanding that where the smart phone contains other features(including a spirit level), provided these features are not used during a round in such a way that could assist the player in his play (e.g. gauging slope or green contours), the distance-measuring application is permitted.

I recommend that anyone that wants to fully understands the circumstances in which distance measuring devices are permitted in competition, they Google this search string, "R&A Revision to Rules Regarding Distance Measuring Devices."


tony duckett said...

Does the amendment to Decision 14-3/4 actually allow the use of iPhone’s as DMD’s? The iPhone still has a in-built spirit level, that cannot be removed which in the past made the phones illegal to use.

tony duckett said...

My last post questioned the use of distance measuring devices that also contain features that can give info on wind, gradient etc.
The important difference in the wording on the R and A website flowchart is the use of the words, device or application. The phone is a device that has an in-built 'feature' for measuring or giving info on gradient. A golf GPS application downloaded to the phone though will not have this feature, so is ok.

Barry Rhodes said...


Yes, this is from the R&A's article,
'Your Distance Measuring Device Questions Answered':

Q. My smartphone has an inbuilt spirit level as part of the functionality of the phone but it is not part of the distance-measuring app. Can I use the phone as a distance-measuring device?

Yes, provided that you do not use the level in a manner that might assist you in your play.


Henk said...


how does this comply with the following from the R&A website:

Q. What kind of distance-measuring devices are allowed by Local Rule?

A. A GPS, laser, smart phone, any really; however, it is important that the device only measures distance. The use of a distance-measuring device that is designed to gauge or measure other conditions that might affect a player’s play, such as gradient or wind speed, is not permitted, regardless of whether such an additional function is used or not, and even if that function is disabled.

kind regards,
Henk Leliveld

Barry Rhodes said...


A smart phone is not a dedicated distance measuring device that has been designed to gauge or measure other conditions that might affect play. A distance measuring application application has to be downloaded.

You need to read the full document to understand the current position, as the compass / spirit level feature is separately addressed.


Helen said...

Earlier this month the conditions of a competition included the following: "The use of distance measuring devices is permitted in all ........ Golf Inc competitions. Mobile telephones are deemed NOT to be distance measuring devices."
Where in the Rules is a Committee allowed to restrict the type of measuring device used?

Barry Rhodes said...


In my opinion, a Committee is not permitted to allow the use of distance measuring devices, excepting mobile (smart) phones. However, they are probably permitted to make a Condition of Competition banning players from using phones on the course, which could be argued to have the same result. I recommend that you take this up with your national golfing body for their official ruling.