Jimmy Walker and Justin Thomas made waves last year when, addressing the topic of “backstopping” on the PGA Tour, both said that it was effectively “their right” if they play quickly or want to help out a friend to either allow their ball to be “backstopped” or to leave their ball in place to “backstop” for another player.

Here’s a full video:

If that doesn’t work, this tweet should:

That attitude may have jumped to the LPGA Tour, where the above video is NOT a good look. The LPGA deleted a Tweet that celebrated this likely rules breach:

The rule at hand is 15.3a. The relevant portion reads:

a. Ball on Putting Green Helping Play
If a player reasonably believes that a ball on the putting green might help anyone’s play (such as by serving as a possible backstop near the hole), the player may:

  • Mark the spot of the ball and lift it under Rule 13.1b if it is his or her own ball, or if the ball belongs to another player, require the other player to mark the spot and lift the ball (see Rule 14.1).
  • The lifted ball must be replaced on its original spot (see Rule 14.2).

In stroke play only:

  • A player who is required to lift a ball may play first instead, and
  • If two or more players agree to leave a ball in place to help any player, and that player then makes a stroke with the helping ball left in place, each player who made the agreement gets the general penalty (two penalty strokes).

In 2018, the Rule was essentially the same, but resulted in an immediate DQ of the players. The Interpretation 15.3a/1 clarifies essentially that the disqualification penalty should only be applied if the players knew they weren’t allowed to “backstop” for another player. (Another instance in which ignorance of the Rules is rewarded with none or a lesser penalty.)

In my opinion (I have not talked with the other Rules Geeks, though they’re encouraged to add a comment), the time for this to be addressed on the major Tours around the world was a year or two ago. It’s seemingly becoming more and more common, and players are failing to protect the field and thus to act with integrity and knowledge of the Rules. It’s a bad look, for the players, for the Rules of Golf, and for the fans watching.

Put an end to “#BackStopping.”