The Do’s and Don’ts of Giving and Getting Advice During a Round of Golf (Corrected for 2023 Rules)
By Joyce McCann, 18er Rules Chair
Several rules of golf deal with the do’s and don’ts of giving or gaining different types of information during a round of golf that may give a player an advantage.
The Rules include two types of information; advice and public Information. Advice is any comment or action intended to influence a player in, for example, choosing a club or deciding how to play a hole. Advice can only be given to you by your caddie, partner, or an official “advice giver” in a tournament (Rule 24.4). If you accept advice from anyone else, or give advice to a player who is not your partner, there is a 2-stroke penalty in stroke play, or loss of hole in match play (Rule 10.2).
Public information, which includes such things as the location of a penalty area or bunker, distance to the hole, or the Rules, may be provided at any time to anyone. Sometimes the distinction between advice and public Information is subtle. If you are playing a hole and another player in your group says “there is a penalty area on the right,” that’s public information, but, if she says “best to play to the left side of the fairway,” that’s advice.
Here are two examples of other ways to gain helpful information within the
Finding out what club another player used for a shot can be very helpful information. While it’s okay to ask another player what club they used after you both have hit your shots, it’s not okay to ask before you have hit your shot, as that is asking for advice. There is however, a legal way to find out what club another player used before hitting: you can look into their bag to see what club is missing . Touching the bag or a club in the process of peeking will incur a 2-stroke penalty (Rule 10.2a). So, look in the bag to your heart’s content, but don’t touch anything. Just another example of why the Rules are sometimes good for a laugh.
Knowing how a putt will break is vital. One can gain a lot of information before putting by watching the breaks of others’ putts. The best way to do that is to position yourself facing the player on an extension of the line of play on the other side of the flagstick. The 2023 Rules do not prohibit this regardless of whether you are the player’s partner, opponent, or just a fellow competitor. The new Rules do, however, define a ”Restricted Area” behind the player, where a caddie or partner cannot stand when the player begins taking a stance until the stroke is made [Rule 10.2b(4)]. So, the option of watching from the other side of the flagstick is open to any player. However, as some players might be distracted by seeing another player standing in their line of sight, they may ask that person to move. If the person refuses to move, they can be considered to be deliberately distracting the person putting, which could be “serious misconduct” (Rule 1.2a Interpretations). So, if you are asked to move, move.
The bottom line is, get all the information you can within the Rules. Play your best, and remember to have fun.