The subject of ‘backstopping’ has reared its head once again on social media with calls for players to be penalised or even disqualified for doing it.
But what is backstopping? It’s when a player doesn’t mark his or her ball on the green when it’s close to the hole to prevent their playing partners ball from running too far past.
It’s actually against the Rules of Golf to intentionally assist an opponent in this way but we’ve heard from tour players such as Jimmy Walker who admits to leaving their balls unmarked depending on the situation – and the playing partner.
Walker tweeted: “I try to help everyone. Especially if they got a bad break or got short sided. I’ve asked, “Do you want me to leave the ball?”
Whereas Eddie Pepperell jokingly added: “I also do the same as Jimmy. I sometimes take it further. I ask them if they’ve ever experienced ‘real’ adversity in their lives. If they have, I pop a few tees in the ground as well to act as another potential backstop. Being nice feeds the soul.”
But apparently both players should be disqualified if help is offered and accepted.
And many people aren’t happy about it…
Every time I play an event, my goal is to shoot a lower score over 72 holes than everyone else playing, so why on earth would I intentionally help a fellow competitor by not marking my ball!! #backstopping
— Luke Donald (@LukeDonald) June 10, 2018
Ben An and John Huh helping each other out here. What a joke. pic.twitter.com/k9chMb8FVD
— Michael Clayton (@MichaelClayto15) June 8, 2018
So is backstopping technically cheating?
Yes, says Mark Townsend
When we were juniors we used to, when faced with a fast putt, put the flag somewhere handy behind the hole. It basically gave us a free putt.
In our defence we were not yet teenagers and it didn’t really matter what we did.
Doing it on tour with your mate’s ball is not the right way to go.
If there is intent and the players agree not to mark a ball so that it can be used as a backstop then the players should be disqualified.
It sounds pretty simple but proving this is anything but. We all like a quicker game now and this just slows things down… I don’t think for one second that this would improve pace of play but this is what everyone likes to trot out.
One half-straightforward way to see it is, if the ball was in your way and you are facing a chip shot, then would you have asked for that ball to be marked? Players can’t wait to get their playing partners to clear the decks when it might get in the way but then get ever so casual when it’s sitting nicely to the side of the hole.
This practice is rubbish.
We played a team competition at the weekend and by the time the fourth player came to chip, we had all missed the green, he had all sorts to help his cause. In the end he duffed it.
But surely you can’t be dependent on getting an advantage if you play with the right people, be it a couple of mates or players who are a bit too casual in such situations.
Michael Clayton pointed out on Twitter that the likes of Faldo and Seve would get in there nice and quickly to protect the field (and themselves). Good for them.
This is the players’ responsibility and it shouldn’t really be a topic of discussion. If your ball is going to play a part in someone else’s shot get it out of there.
No, says James Savage
I feel like there are some people who are only happy when they are moaning about something.
It’s almost like they are looking for things which allow them to start every sentence with, “The problem with golf is…”
Backstopping to me seems like one of these topics.
Is it really doing any harm if a player decides not to mark their ball as a goodwill gesture to a playing partner?
Has it ever had a huge impact on the outcome of a golf tournament?
And where do we draw the line with it? Should players start marking their ball after hitting it close on a par 3?
What next? Not being able to watch the roll of a playing partners ball when they have a putt on a similar line?
Throughout the course of a tournament each player will have their fair share of good breaks and bad. That’s one of the reasons we all love golf right?
We’ve had the GolfSixes and Shot Clock Masters on the European Tour which seem like significant step forwards in stamping out slow play.
Forcing players to mark their ball every time they hit it close would be a step backwards.
No one likes a stickler for the rules. Relax, enjoy the game and stop looking for negatives.