You can stop looking for the phone number to report rules violations you spot while watching pro golf on TV.
On Dec. 11, the USGA, R&A, the PGA of America and golf’s major professional tours jointly announced a new local rule which will end the era of golf fans and watchers calling in rules violations not spotted by golfers in the middle of competition. Specifically, the USGA and R&A announced this local rule will no longer allow officials to consider rules violations raised by spectators using video evidence from a television broadcast or captured on site by a mobile phone or other capture device.
In addition, the major tours have agreed to place an official with the television production crew for each tournament so they can watch the coverage and related footage in real time and assess potential rules violations without the interjection of fans. These officials could still assess penalties for violations they spot on coverage if they deem the player had knowledge of the rule they were violating and committed the violation on purpose, disregarding the rules.
Further, the local rule, which becomes available from Jan. 1, 2018, eliminates the additional two-stroke penalty applied to players for failing to include a penalty on the score card when the player was unaware of the penalty. Lexi Thompson was assessed a four-stroke penalty in the middle of the final round of the 2017 ANA Inspiration after LPGA rules officials were alerted by a fan to an infraction Thompson committed on the 17th putting surface in the third round. She replaced her mark with her ball closer to the hole and putted out, never assessing a penalty for not playing from the original position. She was penalized two strokes for breaking that rule and another two for not calling the penalty in the first place. Amazingly, Thompson still rallied to get into a playoff with So Yeon Ryu but lost out on a second major championship victory.
All of the organizations represented on the working group — the PGA Tour, European Tour, LPGA, Ladies European Tour, the PGA of America — studying this issue since April will introduce the local rule in 2018, and the former two-stroke penalty for not calling a penalty will be permanently removed when the modernized Rules of Golf take effect on Jan. 1, 2019.