Monday, September 14, 2015

Ask Linda #1148-Penalty discovered after round via video

Hi Linda,

18 hole medal [stroke play] competition.

A player decides to play his ball from shallow water in a hazard. He plays the shot and is successful in getting the ball out and in play. The shot is witnessed and, indeed, filmed by his playing partner who was hoping for a less successful attempt! The player and his marker sign the card and submit it in the genuine belief the score is correct and the player was subsequently declared competition winner.

With his card signed and posted, after the close of the competition, it is discovered, whilst reviewing the filmed shot, the player had actually touched the water on his backswing. The player, having seen the video evidence, accepts he has infringed the rules of golf. Both he and his playing partners had not realised any infringement at the time. He was, retrospectively, given a two shot penalty and his prize was recovered.

Q. This was an amateur (society) game. Can video evidence, like in professional golf, be used to change the score on a player’s card?
Q. If the video evidence is acceptable, should the player not have been disqualified for posting an incorrect card as opposed to been given a two-shot penalty?
Q. What actually should have happened in the example described above?
Q. What should have happened if the breach had been discovered prior to the close of competition?

Thanks for making me a better, all around, golfer.
Lou from Wales, UK

Dear Lou,

In stroke play, a penalty may not be imposed after the close of competition [Rule 34-1b]. There are exceptions to this Rule, but none of them apply in this case.

If the player had reviewed the video prior to turning in his scorecard and learned that he had incurred a two-stroke penalty for a breach of Rule 13-4 (touching the water in a water hazard prior to making his stroke), he would have been disqualified if he did not include the two-stroke penalty in his score for the hole. However, that is not the case. The video was not reviewed until after the close of the competition, the player was unaware he had incurred a penalty when he signed his scorecard, and he was the proper winner of the competition [Rule 34-1b, Exception iii].

The Committee erred in imposing the two-stroke penalty after the close of competition. The title and prize should be restored to this player.

Here are the answers to your other questions:

1. Video evidence may be used to change a player’s score. The Committee may use all available evidence in its quest to get the ruling right. I recommend that you read the joint statement from the USGA and the R&A regarding the use of video evidence in administering the Rules of Golf. Here is a link to that statement:

2. The video evidence was not acceptable, since it was submitted after the close of the competition. Had it been submitted prior to that time, the Committee could simply add the two-stroke penalty to the hole where the breach occurred. The justification for waiving the disqualification penalty (for recording a score on a signed and submitted scorecard that did not include the penalty) is that the competitor could not reasonably know that he had incurred a penalty [Decision 33-7/4.5].

3. What should have happened is nothing. The evidence was submitted too late and the player should retain his title and his prize.

4. If the breach had been discovered prior to the close of the competition, the Committee should have shared the evidence with the player and added a two-stroke penalty to the player’s score for the hole. This is a case where the disqualification penalty should be waived. Please take out a couple of minutes to read Decision 33-7/4.5: Competitor Unaware of Penalty Returns Wrong Score; Whether Waiving or Modifying Disqualification Penalty Justified.  

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