Can you stand behind someone putting, or take a shot, to get an idea of what you should do next? There’s a surprise for you in the new rule book.

2023 Rules of Golf

Come on, be honest? Who’s been guilty of taking more than a brief peek at their partner’s line when they’re trying to work out their next shot?

It used to be an old joke of Texas Scrambles that all four players would be rolled-up caterpillar-like all watching where the ball was going when one of them took a putt.

Well, if you and your partner like to watch each other’s putts – to get a view on what you will be facing next – then make sure to read the next few paragraphs carefully as the new 2023 Rules of Golf bring in a very explicit restriction that will interest you…

What did the old rule say?

If you remember the fuss when Haotong Li was given a two-stroke penalty after his caddie was deemed to be standing behind him as he took his stance on the 18th green at the Dubai Desert Classic in 2019, then you’ll probably be familiar with Rule 10.2b (4).

It said that when a player begins taking a stance for a stroke, and until that stroke is made, a caddie must not “deliberately stand in a location on or close to an extension of the line of play behind the ball for any reason”.

That rule also said that in forms of play involving partners, that partner could take the same actions – with the same limitations – as a player’s caddie could under 10.2b (4).

What does the new rule say?

While it may always have been implied in Rule 10.2b (4) that you couldn’t crowd your partner’s line to get a read on where your next putt or shot might go, it is now explicitly written into the rules on foursomes (Rule 22.6) and fourball (Rule 23.8).         

Restriction on Player Standing Behind Partner when Stroke Made states that, in addition to the limitations in Rule 10, a player “must not stand on or close to an extension of the line of play behind the ball while their partner is making a stroke to gain information for their (the player’s) next stroke”.

If you’re caught doing this, you’ll get hit with the general penalty, which is two shots in stroke play or loss of hole in match play. In foursomes, that penalty applies to the side. In fourball, there are even examples where it could apply to both players.

Indeed, there’s a fuller explanation for fourball play in a new clarification, which reveals that how a penalty will be applied depends “on the reason the player stood there” and, if there’s a breach, “whether either the player or their partner was helped by the breach”.

The most relevant example talks about a player standing on, or close, to an extension of the line of play to “learn information about how their upcoming putt might break based on how their partner’s ball breaks on the putting green”.

NCG Verdict

Well, you have now been warned. What you could, and couldn’t do, when playing with a partner in this regard had always been something of a murky area in the club game – as much out of genuine confusion as anything else. Now, the Rule in foursomes and fourball is very clear. Don’t stand behind your partner while they’re making a stroke. It’ll be a costly mistake if you do.

More on the 2023 Rules of Golf update

We’ve painstakingly been through every update to make sure you have everything you need to know about the biggest changes, from penalties in Stableford, handicaps on scorecards, back-on-the-line relief, and much, much more.

Rules of Golf podcast

Steve Carroll and Tom Irwin sat down to discuss the 2023 updates on the From the Clubhouse podcast.

Listen in the player below, or on your preferred podcast platform.

Steve Carroll

A journalist for 23 years, Steve has been immersed in club golf for almost as long. A former captain and committee member, he has passed the Level 3 Rules of Golf exam with distinction having attended the national Tournament Administrators and Referee's Seminar. He has officiated at a host of high-profile tournaments, including Open Regional Qualifying and the PGA Fourball Championship. A member of NCG's Top 100s panel, Steve has a particular love of links golf and is frantically trying to restore his single-figure handicap.

Handicap: 10.9

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