Golf's governing bodies have softened the caddie alignment rule following complaints over penalties on the European and PGA Tours

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R&A Forced To Backtrack On Caddie Alignment Rule

After recent controversies on both the European and PGA Tours involving Haotong Li and Denny McCarthy (which was rescinded), golf’s governing bodies have reacted with clarifications to the Rule regarding caddies lining up and standing behind players.

The R&A and USGA said they would clarify the Rule, which was a new one for 2019, after outrage from professionals, fans and even European Tour Chief Executive Keith Pelley.

Two clarifications have been made to Rule 10.2b(4), which ‘ensures that aiming at the intended target is a challenge that the player must overcome alone.’

The Rule states:

“When a player begins taking a stance for the stroke and until the stroke is made, the player’s caddie must not deliberately stand in a location on or close to the player’s line of play behind the ball for any reason. If the player takes a stance in breach of this Rule, he or she cannot avoid penalty by backing away.

Exception – Ball on Putting Green: When the player’s ball is on the putting green, there is no penalty under this Rule if the player backs away from the stance and does not begin to take the stance again until after the caddie has moved out of that location.”

The two clarifications provided today with immediate effect can be summarised as follows:

  • Meaning of “Begins taking a stance for the stroke”: 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.
  • Examples of when a caddie is not “Deliberately” standing behind the ball when a player begins taking stance for stroke: As written, the Rule does not apply if a caddie is not deliberately standing behind a player. It is clarified that the term deliberately” requires a caddie to be aware that 1) the player is beginning to take a stance for the stroke to be played and 2) he or she (the caddie) is standing on or close to an extension of the line of play behind the ball. Several examples are given in the clarification to provide additional guidance.

The two new clarifications today provide additional guidance for rules officials and the leeway that was demanded by Keith Pelley, who said Haotong Li’s penalty was “grossly unfair” and called on the R&A and USGA to allow discretion when applying the Rule.

David Rickman, Executive Director – 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.”

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