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standing behind playing partner

Can a caddie stand behind a player during a shot?

It’s not Area 51, but enter this zone and you’ll find yourself on the wrong side of the sport’s updated laws. Steve Carroll explains

 

It was a row that threatened to drown the new Rules of Golf before they ever really got established. Haotong Li’s caddie got caught in the wrong place at the wrong time and both pros and amateurs on social media went mad.

Let’s briefly hark back to the 2019 Dubai Desert Classic. Defending champion Li was on the 18th green and it was decided his caddie was directly behind him when he took his stance. It was a breach of a new rule that restricted when a caddie could ‘deliberately’ stand when a player began to take a shot and it cost Li about $100,000.

There was a lot of noise about that decision afterwards, whether it was a marginal call or not, and the R&A and USGA responded quickly by issuing a clarification that spelled out when a player began taking a stance for a stroke and some examples of when that was not deliberate.

caddie golf rules

Rule 10.2b (4), though, was now getting so large it was starting to need a rule book of its own and so, for the 2023 Rules of Golf, the governing bodies have put together a re-write to clear it up once and for all. Let’s enter the restricted area…

Caddie standing behind player: What is the restricted area?

This comes into effect when a player begins to take a stance for the stroke. Rule 10.2b (4) defines that as having at least one foot in position for that stance.

Until the stroke is made there are limitations relating to when and why a “player’s caddie may deliberately stand on or close to an extension of the line of the play behind that ball”. That’s known as the restricted area and it covers two points: aiming and help other than aiming.

What’s the deal with aiming?

“The caddie must not stand in the restricted area to help the player with aiming”. All very straightforward. But there is more.

‘Help’ also includes when a caddie moves away – even without saying anything – but “by doing so, is giving a signal to the player that they are correctly aimed at the intended target”.

There is an escape clause. If the player backs away before making the stroke and the caddie moves away from the restricted area “before the player again begins to take a stance for the stroke” then there will be no penalty.

What about providing other help?

Rule 10.2b (4) says this is things like checking to see if a player’s club would hit a nearby tree during a backswing. Caddies can stand in the restricted area in such circumstances but only if they move away before the stroke is made and “provided this positioning is not part of a regular routine”.

There is no penalty for a caddie that’s inadvertently in the restricted area – the move must be deliberate.

What about if they’re helping to see where the ball went?

Ever tried to hit a ball in the low sun? You’ll often see someone lined up behind a player to get an idea of where the ball is flying when the shot is hit. Is this a breach of Rule 10.2b (4)?

The rule does not stop a player from getting help by having someone “other than the player’s caddie stand in the restricted area to help track the flight of a ball”.

Does this Rule only apply to caddies?

2023 rules of golf

No. In forms of play that involve partners or advice givers the same restrictions apply, although there are modifications in place for players who are blind. There is also a further rule on when a player can stand behind their partner.

What happens if the rule is breached?

You’ll get the general penalty, which is two shots or loss or hole in match play.

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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