Help and Advice on the Golf Course
By Kendall Dunovant, USGA Rules Department • January 19, 2020
When you are trying to navigate your way around a course, you may end up finding your ball in a tough spot and wish you could ask for some help to make it a bit easier. However, one of the fundamental challenges in the game of golf is that you must generally make your own strategic and tactical decisions during the round. The Rules of Golf limit the help that is available to players to maintain this specific challenge.
Let’s dive into the rights and restrictions around help and advice, which are covered in Rule 10.2.
What is Advice and Who Can Give It?
First and foremost, it is essential to know that during a round you must not give advice to anyone in the competition who is playing on the course or ask anyone for advice (with a few exceptions).
The Rules offer a clear Definition of advice. Advice is any verbal comment or action that is intended to influence a player in choosing a club, making a stroke, or deciding how to play during a hole or a round. But advice does not include public information, such as the location of things on the course, distance from one point to another, or the Rules. Let’s look at a few examples:
• You may ask someone the distance from your ball to the hole, but you may not ask someone what club you should use.
• You may ask where the green is located or whether there are any bunkers or penalty areas on a hole (if perhaps the tee shot is blind).
• You may ask another player (or tell another player if they ask you) what your options are when you find yourself in a situation where you may wish to take relief (such as in a penalty area or when your ball is unplayable).
The Rules do allow you to ask for advice from a few select people: your caddie and, in partner forms of play, your partner and his or her caddie. Additionally, in a team competition, a committee may choose to put a Local Rule into effect that would allow teams to designate one or two advice givers.
Restrictions on Help
The Rules of Golf also have limitations on what you may do in preparing for and making a stroke, and in how your caddie (or, when applicable, your partner and partner’s caddie) may help you.
You must independently take your stance and aim at the target. The Rules protect this challenge by not allowing you to deliberately set down an object to help in taking your stance (such as by placing a club on the ground along your feet to make sure you are lined up correctly). This would be fine to do while on the driving range, but is not allowed when taking your stance to make a stroke during a round. Once you have placed an object on the ground and taken a stance for your stroke with the object in place, you cannot avoid penalty by backing away and removing the object.
Another way the Rules ensure that you independently take your stance is by not allowing your caddie to deliberately stand behind you on or near an extension of your line of play. Once you have begun to take your stance for the stroke, whether on or off the putting green, you must not have your caddie deliberately standing behind you. However, you can avoid penalty by backing out of your stance, having your caddie move out from the extension of your line of play, and then taking your stance again. For more information, see the Clarifications for Rule 10.2b(4).
Additionally, the Rules do not allow a caddie (or any other person) to physically help you or provide you protection from the elements during a stroke. This means that you must not make a stroke while getting physical help from another person or have another person or object positioned to provide protection for you from things like sunlight, wind, and rain. But, this Rule does not prohibit you from taking actions to protect yourself from the elements, so feel free to break out the shades, put on your rain suit, or even hold an umbrella over your own head while making a one-handed stroke!
Pointing Out Line of Play
The Rules treat pointing out the line of play differently depending on whether your ball is on the putting green or somewhere else on the course.
• Ball Anywhere Other Than on the Putting Green: You may have your line of play pointed out to you by having any person stand on your line of play or by having an object set down on the course. In both cases, the person or object must be moved before the stroke is made.
• Ball on the Putting Green: One of the notable changes in the 2019 Rules of Golf is that there is no restriction on touching your line of play on the putting green. With this change, players and caddies may touch the line of play with a hand, foot, flagstick, or anything else he or she is holding, so long as the action does not improve the conditions affecting the stroke. However, it is important to note that your caddie must not stand on or near your line of play or point out your line of play while you are making the stroke. Additionally, when your ball is on the putting green, you are not allowed to set an object down on or off the putting green to show the line of play, even if that object is moved before you make the stroke.
Knowing these Rules about help and advice can help you make the most of your round and maintain the integrity of this challenging game. A round of golf can put you in some tricky spots, but learning how to independently make decisions about your game will help you master it!
About the WPGA
Founded in 1899, the Western Pennsylvania Golf Association is the steward of amateur golf in the region. Started by five Member Clubs, the association now has nearly 200 Member Clubs and 33,000 members. The WPGA conducts 14 individual competitions and 10 team events, and administers the WPGA Scholarship Fund.