By S.K Mwaura
Golfers are a very interesting lot. They bond very fast. It is not uncommon for a four-ball of complete strangers to be chatting happily barely five minutes after teeing off. During the entire round, so many stories will have been shared touching on a myriad topics revolving around social, economic and political issues.
Once the ice has been broken, golfers will happily discuss technical aspects of the game too. Questions like; which club did you use? how did you manage to come out of the penalty area? am I swinging too fast? are the greens fast or slow? or comments like; I have just played a 9 iron; your backswing is too fast; there’s a problem with your stance etc. feature a lot in the discussion over the entire round.
This has seen many golfers inadvertently breach Rule 10-2. This rule states that during a stipulated round, a player must not give advice to anyone in a competition being played on the course, ask anyone for advice other than his or her caddie, or touch another player’s equipment to obtain information that would be advice if given by, or asked from, a player.
Advice is defined as any verbal comment or action such as showing what club was just used to make a stroke that is intended to influence a player in: (1) choosing a club, (2) making a stroke and (3) deciding how to play a hole during a competition.
It is also in breach of Rule 10-2 for a player to loudly (saying in a manner meant to be overheard) make false comments with the aim of intentionally misleading an opponent or fellow-competitor e.g. about what club you just used. During local competitions, it is not uncommon to hear a player bragging after taking an excellent tee shot on a long par 3: “I just used a pitching wedge!” Whereas the comment might have been made in jest, this is deemed to be an unsolicited and misleading advice to fellow competitors and attracts the general penalty.
It is also very common for players to routinely come into contact with another player’s equipment in the course of the round. While this might be deemed quite normal, it is against the rules to touch another player’s clubs or bag to determine, by elimination, what club a player is using.
However, it is worth noting that advice does not include sharing of public information such as the location and direction of things on the course such as the hole, the putting green, fairway, penalty areas, out of bounds, bunkers, player’s ball, distances, Rules of Golf or Local Rules.
In the current Covid-19 pandemic dispensation, a ball spotter or forecaddie is not a caddie by definition and although he or she could be your regular caddie in normal times, you should not seek advice, nor let him or her volunteer advice as this would contravene Rule 10-2.
During the recent Kenya Amateur Matchplay Championship Strokeplay qualifying rounds at Vetlab Sports Club, a player who had several times been given advice by being shown the line of putt by one of the group’s spotters was disqualified for not including penalties in the round’s scores despite having been made aware of the breaches and the consequences.
In another instance during a competition elsewhere, after completing playing of the second hole, a sympathetic player decided to demonstrate to another player who had experienced trouble in extricating his ball from a bunker how to execute such a stroke successfully. (He had played 14 strokes in the bunker!). The benevolent player and high handicap player dropped a ball each in the bunker and went on to make strokes, each at his own ball. Indeed the coach made an easy shot that got the ball out as easily as Phil Mickelson does. The student replicated the stroke as easily as the benefactor had demonstrated. This single breach offends two rules, practice and advice, but falls in the category of multiple breaches but single penalty: general penalty in strokeplay and loss of hole in matchplay. In this case, the penalty applies to the next hole since the previous hole has already been concluded.
Remember that during a round a player must not give advice to anyone playing in the competition on the same course, or ask anyone for advice other than the player’s caddie or playing partner and should not touch another player’s equipment to learn information that would be advice if given by, or sought from the other player.
However, these restrictions do not apply before a round, while play is stopped under Rule 5.7a or between rounds in a competition.