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Rules of Golf

Quiet, please! How careless talk can cost you penalty shots

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 golf 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 golf ‘advice’ in the rules?

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 golf 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.

advice

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 a clarification 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 golf 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 clarification 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 clarification 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.”

Got a question for our expert?

Despite the changes to the Rules of Golf in 2019 and 2023, there are still some that leave us scratching our heads. I’ll try to help by featuring the best of your queries in this column.

What do you think about these rules on golf advice? Let me know by leaving a comment on X.

Steve Carroll

Steve Carroll

A journalist for 25 years, Steve has been immersed in club golf for almost as long. A former club captain, he has passed the Level 3 Rules of Golf exam with distinction having attended the R&A's prestigious Tournament Administrators and Referees Seminar.

Steve has officiated at a host of high-profile tournaments, including Open Regional Qualifying, PGA Fourball Championship, English Men's Senior Amateur, and the North of England Amateur Championship. In 2023, he made his international debut as part of the team that refereed England vs Switzerland U16 girls.

A part of NCG's Top 100s panel, Steve has a particular love of links golf and is frantically trying to restore his single-figure handicap. He currently floats at around 11.

Steve plays at Close House, in Newcastle, and York GC, where he is a member of the club's matches and competitions committee and referees the annual 36-hole scratch York Rose Bowl.

Having studied history at Newcastle University, he became a journalist having passed his NTCJ exams at Darlington College of Technology.

What's in Steve's bag: TaylorMade Stealth 2 driver, 3-wood, and hybrids; TaylorMade Stealth 2 irons; TaylorMade Hi-Toe, Ping ChipR, Sik Putter.

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