Golf authorities issue clarification on new rule after controversies
Rule concerns where and when a caddie can stand behind a player who is lining up a shot
Haotong Li and his caddie walk to the tenth hole during day four of the Saudi International. Photograph: Ross Kinnaird/Getty Images
Golf officials issued clarification on where and when a caddie can stand behind a player who is lining up a shot following two controversial incidents at two different events.
The Royal & Ancient (R&A) and United States Golf Association (USGA) issued a joint statement attempting to clarify rule 10.2 which was designed to limit the advice and help a player can receive during a round.
The new rule sparked an uproar after China’s Haotong Li at Dubai Desert Classic and Denny McCarthy at the Phoenix Open were handed two-stroke penalties last week for getting help from their caddies.
Li was penalised when his caddie, who had been standing behind him, moved to the side after he had started to take his stance for a putt.
His two-shot penalty was upheld by the R&A and meant the defending champion dropped from a tie from third to a tie for 12th, costing him more than €80,000.
McCarthy’s was rescinded a day later after consultations with officials determined there had been similar incidents involving other players that were not penalised.
Clarifying the rule, the USGA and R&A said in a statement: “If a player backs away from a stance, the player is not considered to have begun a “stance for the stroke”.
“Therefore, a player can now back away from his or her stance anywhere on the course and avoid a breach of Rule 10.2b (4) if the caddie had been standing in a location behind the ball.”
David Rickman, executive director of governance at the R&A, said: “These clarifications are designed to improve the operation of the Rule and give the players more opportunity to avoid a breach while remaining true to the purpose of the Rule.
“We appreciate that this requires some players and caddies to make an adjustment, but we believe there is widespread acceptance that it is for the player alone to line up a shot.”
Although European Tour chief executive Keith Pelley complained to the R&A about the “grossly unfair” penalty suffered by Li, it is understood that the clarifications will not lead to any changes to the official result from Dubai.
The change was part of a package of new rules introduced on January 1st and Thomas Pagel, the USGA senior managing director of governance, said it was expected there would be an adjustment period.
“Experience has taught us that introducing a new rule requires us to balance patience with a willingness to act quickly when necessary,” said Pagel in a statement.
“With so many pivotal changes to the rules this year, we’ve committed to offering any assistance needed in making the rules easier to understand and apply, without taking away the inherent challenge of playing the game.
“We appreciate that everyone involved in drafting these clarifications worked together with this same goal in mind.”