Below are the views of the RulesGeeks.com staff on Rule 10.2b(4).
Erik J. Barzeski
Rule 10.2b(4) is a good Rule, and despite popular opinion and the likes of Rickie Fowler or Justin Thomas or Luke Donald calling the Rule “stupid,” a reasonably well-written Rule, too.
The Rule does not, as many hot takes on Twitter seem to believe, prevent a caddie from helping a player line up to his target. A caddie can still say “aim a bit more right” or “looks good to me” or something. What the caddie cannot do — what the Rule actually restricts — is the caddie from standing in an area while a player is taking his setup.
I’ll say that again because it’s being wildly misunderstood: 10.2b(4) prevents a caddie from standing in an area. That’s it.
Yes, the intent of the Rule is to prevent players from being lined up by their caddies — they’re far less effective doing so from the side — but the Rule and the wording of the Rule is pretty clearly about preventing caddies from standing in a certain place during a period of time: from the moment the player begins to take his stance to when he’s struck the ball:
The Interpretations (10.2b(4)/1) is fairly simple as well:
Rule 10.2b(4) does not allow a player to have his or her caddie deliberately stand behind him or her when the player begins taking a stance because aiming at the intended target is one of the challenges the player must overcome alone.
There is no set procedure for determining when a player has begun to take a stance since each player has his or her own set-up routine. However, if a player has his or her feet or body close to a position where useful guidance on aiming at the intended target could be given, it should be decided that the player has begun to take his or her stance.
I’ve added the underlined parts to emphasize what I think is what the USGA and R&A were going for. Those underlined parts seem to define that if either a club or a foot is in or near position, then the player has “begun” to take his stance.
- Haotong Li’s right foot was “in position” very near to where it would end up when he made his stroke.
- Denny McCarthy’s feet and clubhead were about 6 inches away from where they would end up when he made his stroke.
In my opinion, the USGA and R&A should simply clarify the Interpretation. Clarify when a player has begun to take his stroke, and offer a guidance as to what constitutes “in position” for the club or a foot.
And then, if they would be so bold, I’d love it if the USGA and the R&A simply told the whiny players on the PGA Tour who “have been doing it this way their whole careers” to just change what they’ve been doing. I understand how a caddie and a player would want to stand behind the ball when picking out a target, talking about the wind, determining a carry yardage, etc.
But when the player moves forward, the caddie should step to the side. I don’t care if the player is moving forward to play his shot or just to make some practice swings from beside the golf ball – caddies, step away from the extension of the line of play. It’s not that difficult.
I believe something similar to this opinion is shared by Missy Jones (@missyjonjones) on her blog, virtuallycertainmissy.com, where she writes (emphasis added):
Well, we knew we would get to this “growing pains” stage with the new Rules of Golf and here we are. We will get through it even with all the knashing of teeth on social media. Before 2000, caddies could stand behind players even when they made a stroke. That changed. Now the rules don’t want anybody behind the player for any reason. The Rule doesn’t prohibit “lining up”, that’s the end result. The Rule prohibits being in a certain spot at a certain time… a rule that players and caddies learned under its previous timing (before the stroke). Everybody will get it and with the new penalties by Haotong Li and Denny McCarthy, they are going to learn it pretty quickly it seems.
I see 2019 as merely extending a concept from 2018, in that while previously caddies and partners were prohibited from standing behind their player when the stroke was being made, they are now prohibited from standing behind their player when the player begins to take their stance.
The rub, of course is “begins taking a stance” from the Rule. The relevant Interpretation, 10.2b(4)/1 – Examples of When Player Begins Taking His or Her Stance, is helpful, but apparently not helpful enough. We expect to see a Clarification soon.
Too many are reading words and intentions into the rule that simply don’t exist. A prime example is people saying the player has or hasn’t addressed the ball. The term is not in the Rules of Golf and excluded the player’s stance anyway.
The rule is simply about the caddie (or any one else for that matter) being in the wrong place at the wrong time.