Phone In Rulings
By Snyper on 2/28/11
Matt is an opinionated* golf enthusiast from Pennsylvania. He coaches at the high school level, molding the minds and swings of our next generation. His column will appear each Monday on ClubSG. Feel free to chime in with your thoughts and opinions of Matt in the comments. Don't hold back- because Matt won't.

One of the topics that comes up several times every season on the PGA Tour is players being penalized only after a fan calls in a violation that they witnessed on television. It is certainly a situation that is unique to the sport of golf. The question is, should it be? Well, in my opinion, the answer is yes and no.

I have absolutely no problem with spectators, whether they are watching at home or at the course, drawing attention to possible rules violations. I see no problem with questionable situations being pointed out by someone other than a fellow player or rules official. A violation is a violation. Why does it have to be spotted by someone involved in the tournament for it to be properly assessed? The PGA Tour does not have rules officials on the course for the purpose of following players to watch and see if they commit a crime against the rules of the game. They are on the course in case a player needs to consult them as to a ruling that they may be unfamiliar with or to confirm opportunities for free relief. They may also be called upon to verify any local rules that are in effect from week to week. But, unlike most other sports, the job of the officials of golf is not to look for, identify, or call out penalties. They don’t wear stripes and carry whistles. So, if a spectator sees a situation that may warrant further consideration, I am fine with the PGA Tour allowing them to get the attention of the officials concerning a given incident.
Those of us with a true love of the game cherish the things about golf that set it apart from other sports.

However, it is at this point where I believe the system breaks down. As I previously stated, the sport of golf is not like other sports in terms of how penalties are identified or how they are enforced. Those of us with a true love of the game cherish the things about golf that set it apart from other sports. One of those things is the integrity of calling your own penalties. It is a phenomenon truly unique to golfers and pretty much unimaginable in any other sport. Our game is not about tricking, lying, or concealing the penalties that are justly due. But, instead, golf is about pointing them out and calling them on ourselves. For this reason, I do not believe that officials from the Tour should be allowed to enforce a penalty on a player because of a circumstance pointed out by a fan. Instead, the officials that are notified of the situation should discuss the instance with the player. After the round is over and before the player signs his card, the official should notify the player of the proper ruling and leave it up to the player to determine if he violated the ruling and deserves a penalty. In fact, I’m even fine with the PGA rolling back footage of the situation for the player in case he wants to review it. Then, if he says that he did nothing wrong, no penalty should be given. If it is a simple case of him not knowing the rules and after it is explained to him, he agrees that he committed a violation, then he should penalize himself. That is how the game was intended to be played and how the rules were intended to be enforced.
When amateurs step out onto the links, they have to make the choice of whether to call themselves for a penalties or not, the pros should have to do the same thing.

Dustin Johnson’s famous “bunker” penalty from last season was a perfect example of how this was improperly handled. After watching the video a thousand times, I could not say for 100% certain that he grounded his club. Only he knows for sure if he did or if he didn’t. So, the official who was notified of the situation should have explained to Dustin that he was in a bunker and left it up to him as to whether he needed to penalize himself or not. Nobody should have told him that they reviewed the tapes and he is going to be penalized for violating a rule that he may not have believed he violated. In fact, in my opinion, the officials should have never even looked at the video. They should have just talked to him and informed him that it was a bunker. If Johnson felt the need to look at the video because he was unsure of whether he grounded his club or not, him looking at the video would be perfectly acceptable. But a simple, “Mr. Johnson, before you sign your card, were you aware that you were in a bunker on number 18 and that a player is not allowed to ground their club in a bunker,” would have taken care of the whole situation. He should not have been approached and informed that he was going to be penalized. The official might as well have had on a stripped shirt and blown his whistle all the way up the fairway. That’s not golf and the PGA Tour should leave the whistle blowing to the players the way the game was intended.

In all reality, in most of the situations, players will not have much choice but to call the penalty on themselves after reviewing the incident. Choosing not to would leave them looking like a cheat to everyone with a television. That is not to mention all the respect that they would lose amongst their peers. However, allowing the player to make the call on himself, as obvious as it may be, still sends the message that he is choosing to do the right thing. When amateurs step out onto the links, they have to make the choice of whether to call themselves for a penalties or not, the pros should have to do the same thing. For the sake of the other competitors, I have no problem with spectators being able to assist in pointing out a possible infraction for the sake of further review by the player, but not for the sake of an official enforcing a penalty.

* Matt's views and opinions are his own do not necessarily reflect those of oobgolf.

photo source

[ comments ]
Banker85 says:
i agree with your article. I do see one thing i feel is incorrect, in regards to Johnson's grounded club you can visibly see without a doubt the mark his club left on the ground before he hit his shot.
bducharm says:
Thank you for putting a picture of one of our IP Phones!!! Cisco rules!!!

Oh, yeah, the article. I agree - NO PHONE IN RULINGS!!! The game of golf is not a perfect game. If something occurs and it is not called, some idiot should not be able to have an effect on the outcome.
Werepuppie says:
Since there are no officials with every group,call in violations should be allowed.If you broke the rules,you broke the rules.Golf is a game of integrity.
IMHO the way it should work is that if a violation is called in,officials should review the video and then decide if it was a penalty,however if it is a penalty,they must determine if it was intentional or not.If not,then they should allow an amended scorecard even after signing it,no DQ for signing incorrect scorecard.If it was intentional,like kicking your ball out from behind a tree,then DQ.
wrhall02 says:
I do have a problem with spectators calling in infractions and penalizing players. Spectators are not officials, and most spectators are very biased. They have a favorite and most likely a player they don't like. Will they call a penalty on their favorite player? Or...only scrutinize the players they dislike? In other words, spectators are not likely to apply "fairness" to their judgements.

I like the idea of having an official scorer with each group, posting real time scores per hole. Any questions about a potential infraction would be settled immediately by the official and the players before they post the score for the hole the just completed.
legitimatebeef says:
Unspeakably lame. This is one of those more harm than good scenarios. The powers that be believe they are improving the fairness of the competition when they are more likely compromising it. There was nothing really wrong with golf rules enforcement before and now they are just getting carried away. This is not a smart application of technology, its overzealous and its also the dreaded slippery slope situation. If you zoom in close enough, you can find rules infractions everywhere in golf.
bkuehn1952 says:
I am with the "beef" on this. If an infraction is not apparent to the players or immediate spectators at the time it occurred, then let it be history.
Werepuppie says:
As a spectator calling in,the"fairness"of the situation is not relevant.The TV viewer can only see the infractions that the TV actually aired.It is not like they can follow every shot of a player they dislike to look for violations.
The real issue is not with the assessed penalty strokes,but rather with the DQ for incorrect scorecard.
SweetJazz says:
If the PGA is not going to have a rules official follow every group/pairing on every hole then there are going to be some rules violations. TV viewers should never be allowed to influence the outcome of a tournament.
falcon50driver says:
SweetJazz is absolutely correct. When I get to be commissioner, I'll put a stop to that couch potato stupidity.
glenrich says:
The main problem I see is the allowing an unequal enforcement of the rules.
There are many infractions that can be observed with today's technology that cannot otherwise be noticed by the player or those physically present.
Combine this with large viewership and even the tinyest issue will be seen and likely reported. This gives some players an unfair advantage over others dependent on their amount of airtime.
Niramas says:
Yeah sure, and I want to call in that missed pass interfeernce call I saw in the NFC Championship game. Yeah sure that would work. If you call in a golf violation you are a LOSER. If you condone it then you are just a WANNABE LOSER.
Werepuppie says:
In golf there are no referees.Players keep their own scores.Name me another sport where that is the case.Do we really want officials on every hole?
Just imagine it.At each tee box the official must verify that you are still hitting the same type of ball you started with.Then the fairway official must go to your ball,verify that it is in play and inform you if you are in a hazard and if so what type of hazard.Then the green official must determine if your ball is on the green and that it is the same ball you started the hole with.After the hole the official scorekeeper records your score for the hole.Repeat 18 times.Sounds like fun.
mantajim says:
I would like to nominate 'merlin3driver' for the next PGA Commissioner.
And I also concur with SweetJazz, 'TV viewers should never be allowed to influence the outcome of a tournament.' After all they are spectators, not rules officials nor participants.
Wazzuski says:
Let me take a slightly different tack. While the rules of golf are there and need to be followed, let's face it there are some pretty stupid rules out there ... 14-club limit, can't repair spike mark, can't touch/move a dead object while in a hazard even if the movement is a result of a shot. Yet last week we saw a situation where the rules allow a player relief by simply stating that, if not for the obstruction, he would have been able to hit the shot back-handed, receives relief not once but twice, and this is allowed to hit from his natural side. IMHO, in this situation, the rules should absolutely allow for relief, but require that you still hit the shot with your back-hand. It didn't matter in the long run, but thank goodness Bubba won the match. It would have been a travesty had he lost under this scenario.
Wazzuski says:
And BTW, I say stop all of the "narcing" by non-participants or rules officials. If the violation can only be seen through super-slo-mo, and wasn't noticed by player, his playing parter, or a rules official, then too bad. Keep the fans and spectators specators, not active participants in the outcome of an event.
Niramas says:
Waz, I saw that too and you are right it would have been a travesty. I could even hear the official doubting the claim but still allowing the drops. A perfect example of what a joke the rules of golf are.
grady3rd says:
I'm also okay with viewers calling in to report possible rules violations, and I agree with that it is the player alone who should be the judge of whether or not he committed an infraction. But I do not believe that the player should be DQ'ed for enforcing the penalty upon himself. Villegas and Harrington should never have been DQ'ed due to signing a wrong scorecard. That rule is archaic when applied to a situation in which the player had no reasonable expectation that his scorecard was incorrect.

As to the writers summary of the Dustin Johnson situation, he should go back and review the facts. The rules official never told Dustin that he was being forcibly penalized. He informed Dustin that there was a problem, and that it appeared as if he grounded his club in a bunker. Johnson was given the opportunity to review the footage and amend his scorecard, which you can clearly see him doing after watching his mistake. He was never assessed a penalty, as he penalized himself and corrected his scorecard
Agustin says:
Any reported violation that cannot be proven without technological aids(multiple replays, super slow motion, zoom-in to withing a few inches of the ball) should never be admisible.
Brworkman says:
The PGA. LPGA and USGA should not accept calls or communications from viewers about rules violations . Viewers are not part of the tournament. Plain and simple. Case closed!
dargenti says:
The "winner"of the Nelson classic (5/31/2015 violated PGA rules by marking his ball on the fringe without being asked by a fellow player, picked up his ball, cleaned it , placed it down, picked up his marker, and the adjusted his lie, two putted for par, "won" by 4 strokes, and signed his card. Am I wrong or is this grounds for a DQ?
[ post comment ]
    Cigar Lounge
Most Popular: