R&A and USGA issues clarification about the caddie-standing-behind-player-Rule 10.2b(4)

HI all.

USGA and R&A have been working fast since the many recent incidents with Rule 10.2b(4) (the prohibition of a caddie standing behind the player when beginning to take the stance for his stroke) – and thus today issued a statement/clarification – see below.

1. The Rule.

Rule 10.2b(4) states this:

(4) Restriction on Caddie Standing Behind Player. When a player begins taking a stance for the stroke and until the stroke is made:

  • The player’s 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.
  • If the player takes a stance in breach of this Rule, he or she cannot avoid penalty by backing away.

Exception – Ball on Putting Green: When the player’s ball is on the putting green, there is no penalty under this Rule if the player backs away from the stance and does not begin to take the stance again until after the caddie has moved out of that location.

2. The doubt.

After quite a few incidents (see no. 4 below) there has been quite some doubt about a) when exactly a player is beginning to take his stance, and b) what “deliberately” exactly means.

3. The clarification as of today.

Today R&A and USGA issued a joint statement (“Clarification”) , where they clarified these things – two main points from the clarifications are:

Meaning of “Begins Taking a Stance for the Stroke”:
a) The player begins to take the stance for the stroke that is actually made when he or she has at least one foot in position for that stance.
b) If a player backs away from a stance, the player is not considered to have begun “a stance for the stroke.” Therefore, a player can now back away from his or her stance anywhere on the course and avoid a breach of Rule 10.2b(4) if the caddie had been standing in a location behind the ball. 

Backing away means that the player’s feet or body are no longer in a position where helpful guidance on aiming at the intended target line could be given. 

Examples of When a Caddie is Not “Deliberately” Standing Behind the Ball When a Player Begins Taking Stance for Stroke: As written, the Rule does not apply if a caddie is not deliberately standing behind a player. It is clarified that the term “deliberately” requires a caddie to be aware that 1) the player is beginning to take a stance for the stroke to be played and 2) he or she (the caddie) is standing on or close to an extension of the line of play behind the ball. 

You can read the announcement here and the full statement here.

4. Recent incidents.

This clarification has been sparkled by quite a few recent incidents, where penalty was given under that Rule:

If the same happens tomorrow, as in these two incidents, would there be a penalty?

McCarthy incident: No, no penalty, since the player backed off.

Li Haotong: Yesterday, R&A told GolfDigest that Haotong indeed would be penalized, if the same happened tomorrow. There is no explanation. The reason I assume must be, that the caddie was standing there, when the player placed his foot in position for his stance. Although it was only a very very short period, it was illegal At least that is my explanation. Feel free to discuss this in the comments above.

5. Is everything clear now?

Well, that certainly helped understanding the Rule. But I guess there is still room for discussions in the future, e.g to clarify what is meant by:

– “…a position where helpful guidance on aiming at the intended target line could be given“: Exactly when can helpful guidance be given?
– “… he or she has at least one foot in position for that stance“: Often the foot is positioned/placed one place, then moved a bit, then a bit more… before its final positioning – when is it “in position”?
– “…requires the caddie to be aware…“: What if the caddie knows where the players ball is, and then goes somewhere where he cannot stand, but he claims that he did not pay attention to where he was – is that being unaware (or is there a “should have been aware” inherent in the Rule)?
– “…standing…” does that need to be interpreted strictly (the caddie must stand still), or is it also forbidden for the caddie to BE in such an area (e.g. walking a bit around – raking a bunker etc.)?

The future will show if this has solved all interpretation problems – or if we need a clarification to the clarification :-).




  1. Mike S says

    Looks like a useful improvement to me – if the intention is to prevent LPGA-style “you are now on line”, but not a caddy discussing line with their player, it was a nonsense that you could not back off and start again without penalty, especially for accidental infringements. It also failed the “common sense” test that is supposed to underlie the new rules.

    By defining “the beginning of a stroke” as continuous with playing it, they may have also set precedent on other decisions too.

  2. Arlene King says

    Can you please address the penalties incurred by Ricky Fowler at the water and how the scoring (penalties) were assigned. As a Weekend Warrior it did not make sense. A player, taking relief and finally placing the ball. The ball moved, through no fault of player or caddie, and rolled back into the water. How could that be interpreted as intent or controlled by player?

    1. Anonymous says

      It couldnt and shows some of the idiocies of golf rules

    2. Brian Evans says

      It couldnt and shows some of the idiocies of golf rules

    3. Dagbone says

      The operative Rule is 9.3: If NATURAL FORCES (such as wind or water) cause a player’s ball at rest to move:
      • There is no penalty, and

      There is an exception to this Rule for when the ball was in play on the putting green: If the player’s ball ON THE PUTTING GREEN moves after the player had ALREADY LIFTED AND REPLACED the ball on the spot from which it moved:
      • The ball must be replaced on its ORIGINAL SPOT
      • This is true no matter what caused it to move (including natural forces).

      As an aside, the Fowler incident would have received the exact same Ruling under the pre-2019 Rules.

      1. Dagbone says

        Also as an aside, had the same forces that put Fowler’s ball into the penalty area had instead put Fowler’s ball into (or much closer to) the hole, the Ruling would have been exactly the same, even though Fowler would have benefited greatly. So the Rule works in both directions, as it should.

  3. JohnLa says

    This seems to be a change to the rule rather than a clarification or are there some situations when a player can back away and still get a penalty?

  4. Anon says

    The rule as it stands needs to be read carefully. The second bullet point about backing away not avoiding a penalty only applies when the player “takes a stance” NOT when he begins to take a stance. Mc Carthy hadn’t TAKEN his stance. At best he had only begun to take his stance. And then he backed away. Because he had only begun to take his stance backing away avoided a penalty. He shouldn’t have been penalised in the first place had the rule be interpreted and applied correctly.

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