Don't let a slip of the tongue get the better of you. Our rules expert Steve Carroll will make sure you avoid punishment for talking out of turn

A tongue that wags loosely on the golf course – especially when we’re trying to be helpful – can bring down even the best of scores. Yes, we’re going to shine a light on advice, specifically what you can – and can’t – say when a competition is in progress that may influence a playing partner or an opponent. Here’s what the Rules of Golf say…

Firstly, what is ‘advice’ in the Rules of Golf?

You may think this is obvious enough, but it’s worth a whole definition of its own in the golf rules so it pays to give it the once-over.

Advice is any “verbal comment or action… that is intended to influence a player”. Influence them in what way?

Helpfully, there’s a list. These are

– Choosing a club.

– Making a stroke.

– Deciding how to play a hole or round.

And what is not advice?

This is equally as important.

Public information, such as revealing the distance from one point to another, discussing the rules, or the location of things on the course – such as the hole, bunkers, penalty areas – and the Rules are not advice and you can chat away to your heart’s content on such matters.

Can I give advice?

You know the answer to this, but Rule 10.2a fleshes it out in more detail. During a round, you can’t do the following:

– Give advice to anyone in the competition playing on the course.

– Ask anyone for advice, except your caddie if you’ve got one.

– Touch someone else’s equipment to learn anything that would be classed as advice if you’d asked them. So don’t go rooting about their clubs, or bag, to see if they’re using that 7-iron. That said, if you take a peek without getting handsy, or your eagle-eyes manage to spot the number on the club while someone is taking a shot, you won’t fall foul.

Does this apply all the time?

Good spot. It does not. This rule is not in force before a round, between rounds if there’s more than one to the competition, or if play is stopped for any reason, such as bad light, or a storm.

In fourballs, foursomes and team competitions, a player can give advice to, and receive it from, their partner or partner’s caddie.

Under an interpretation to Rule 10.2a, if two players are sharing a caddie any of them can get information from that person.

And team events also have their own rule subsection regarding who can give advice and what they can say.

What’s the penalty for giving advice?

Stiff enough. A breach of Rule 10.2 means the general penalty – loss of hole in match play or two shots in stroke play. It doesn’t need too many slips of the tongue to start getting very costly indeed.

What about if I’m getting advice and haven’t asked for it?

We all know that person who can just be a bit too eager to help. Another interpretation to Rule 10.2a covers this scenario. You won’t get penalised for it, but you’ve got to put a lid on it as soon as possible.

For the interpretation says: “If the player continues to get advice from that same person, the player must try to stop that person from giving advice. If the player does not do so, he or she is treated as asking for that advice and get the general penalty.”

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