By Kendall Dunovant, USGA Rules Department
When you are trying to navigate your way
around a course, you may find your ball in a tough spot and wish you could ask
for some help to make it a bit easier. One of the fundamental challenges in the
game of golf, however, is you must generally make your own strategic and
The Rules of Golf limit the help that is
available to players to maintain this specific challenge. Let’s dive into the
rights and restrictions around help and advice, which are covered in Rule
First and foremost, it’s essential to know
that during a round you must not give advice to – or ask for advice from – anyone
in the competition (with a few exceptions).
The Rules offer a clear definition of “advice.”
Advice is any verbal comment or action that is intended to influence a player
in choosing a club, making a stroke or deciding how to play during a hole or a
round. But advice does not include “public information,” such as the location
of things on the course, yardages, wind direction or the Rules.
Let’s look at a few examples:
• You may ask someone the
distance from your ball to the hole; you may not ask someone what club
you should use.
• You may ask where the green is located or whether there are any
bunkers or penalty areas on a hole.
• You may ask another player (or tell another player if they ask
you) what your options are when you find yourself in a situation in which you
may wish to take relief, such as in a penalty area or when your ball is
The Rules do allow you to ask for advice from
a few select people: your caddie and, in partner forms of play, your partner
and his or her caddie. Additionally, in a team competition, a committee may
choose to put a Local Rule into effect that would allow teams to designate one
or two advice givers.
The Rules of Golf also have limitations on
what you may do in preparing for and making a stroke, and how your caddie (or,
when applicable, your partner and partner’s caddie) may help you.
You must independently take your stance and
aim at the target. The Rules protect this challenge by not allowing you to
deliberately set down an object to help in taking your stance. For example, you
cannot place a club on the ground along your feet to make sure you are lined up
This is fine to do on the driving range, but it
is not allowed when taking your stance to make a stroke during a round. Once
you have placed an object on the ground and taken a stance for your stroke with
the object in place, you cannot avoid a penalty by backing away and removing
the object. So don’t lay down a club or alignment rod during play.
Another way the Rules ensure that you
independently take your stance is by not allowing your caddie to deliberately
stand behind you on or near an extension of your line of play. Once you have
begun to take your stance for the stroke, whether on or off the putting green,
you must not have your caddie deliberately standing behind you.
However, in this situation you can avoid a penalty
by backing out of your stance, having your caddie move out from the extension
of your line of play, and then taking your stance again. For more information,
see the Clarifications for Rule
Additionally, the Rules do not allow a caddie
(or any other person) to physically help you or provide you protection from the
elements during a stroke. This means that you must not make a stroke while
getting physical help from another person or have another person or object
positioned to provide protection for you from things like sunlight, wind and
This Rule does not, however, prohibit you
from taking actions to protect yourself from the elements, so feel free to
break out the shades, put on your rain suit, or even hold an umbrella over your
own head while making a one-handed stroke. (Good luck with that!)
The Rules treat pointing out the line of play
differently depending on whether your ball is on the putting green or somewhere
else on the course.
• Ball Anywhere Other Than on the
Putting Green: You may have your line of play pointed out to you by having any
person stand on your line of play or by having an object set down on the
course. In both cases, the person or object must be moved before the stroke is
• Ball on the Putting Green: One of
the notable changes in the 2019 Rules of Golf removed the restriction on
touching your line of play on the putting green. With this change, players and
caddies may touch the line of play with a hand, foot, flagstick or anything
else he or she is holding, so long as the action does not improve the
conditions affecting the stroke. However, it is important to note that your
caddie must not stand on or near your line of play or point out your line of
play while you are making the stroke.
• Additionally, when your ball is
on the green, you are not allowed to set an object down on or off the putting
green to show the line of play, even if that object is moved before you make
Knowing the Rules about help and advice can
help you make the most of your round and maintain the integrity of this
challenging game. A round of golf can put you in some tricky spots but learning
how to independently make decisions about your game will help you master it.
For more on the Rules of Golf, click here.