For Immediate Release January 26, 2010
Western Golf Alliance announces policies related to social media use
Priority placed on golf etiquette, proper respect for others
LAS VEGAS. Today, the Western Golf Alliance announced policies associated with the use of social media tools during official event play. The policies limit the use of items such as Twitter, Facebook, MySpace, LinkedIn, and Flickr to ensure proper attention to the sport of golf, speed of play, and general etiquette toward other players.
"The Western Golf Alliance is very serious about our mission to support and promote the great game of golf, and that dedication relates to issues such as on-course performance and pace of play," said Peter McGarry, WGA president, speaking from the Planet Hollywood Resort and Casino, site of the Board of Directors annual winter meeting. "It should be obvious that the use of electronic devices on the course is questionable, but any organization that encourages actual digital interaction between players and others during the round has decided to disregard the sport in exchange for cheap publicity."
The Western Golf Alliance has been a golf industry leader in the use of social media for managing communications, interaction, and promotion of golf. However, there is a line to be drawn between the tactical use of social media to promote the grand game of golf, the club, and individual members, and actually using such tools on the golf course. Accessing Internet-based tools, posting content, and interacting with others online only distracts from the sport.
There is also a question of potential rules violations associated with social media tools. Real time interactive technology introduces new issues associated with the potential for who may offer advice, and even the definition of an outside agent. Rule 8 of the Rules of Golf is clear that a player may not ask for advice from anyone other than their partner or either of their caddies (Rule 8-1(b)). In the past, this was easy to monitor. However, a portal device with an online connection to a social media web site could allow a player to collaboratively interact with an online community - or even a coach. While it is possible that a player's smart phone (iPhone, BlackBerry, etc.) could be defined as the player's "equipment" and therefore not an "outside agency" under the Rules of Golf, certainly any individual communicating with the player is an outside agency. The Western Golf Alliance Board of Directors felt it needed to clarify this issue in light of the USGA's Decision 14-3/16 on the use of electronic devices. The decision states that the use of mobile phones and hand-held computers is not a breach of Rule 14-3, however could become a breach depending on how the device is used. In order to eliminate any gray area and avoid member conflicts, it was deemed better to establish a definitive club policy.
This policy is also in line with the rules of the PGA of America, which has adopted tournament rules governing the use of electronic devices during play. Last October, Parker McLachlin was reprimanded by the PGA Tour for posting a "tweet" during a long wait at the Frys.com Open.
"We would never expect any sort of intentional violation of the rules of golf by any player," said McGarry. "However, it is possible that such advice could be sought or offered even on accident once a player has their smart phone in hand. We just want to do the right thing, for our players and others, and in consideration of both the formal rules and proper etiquette of this great sport," McGarry concluded.
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About the Western Golf Alliance: The Western Golf Alliance is the premier golf organization in the United States. The WGA exists to further the greatness of this grand sport of golf through the improvement of golf play by its members, the promotion of golf rules, etiquette, and tradition, and the ability to gather together from time to time for golf events and tournaments. The regional organization spans five western states, and is organized into nine geographic regions. Further information is available at http://www.westerngolf.org/.