R&A and USGA release rules clarification on caddies standing behind players

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The R&A and USGA have released clarifications after two separate incidents involving the new rule which imposes restriction on caddies standing behind the player (10.2b (4)). 

Haotong Li was the unlucky first perpetrator to fall foul of the new rule on the 72nd green at the Omega Dubai Desert Classic, having begun to take his stance while his caddie was still behind him - despite no intention to line up his player. It prompted an outcry from professionals and spectators, but upon reviewing the footage, the penalty stood, and Li dropped from 3rd to 12th on the leaderboard. 

Just a few days later Denny McCarthy was penalised under the same rule, but this time the footage was reviewed and it was deemed the ruling was incorrect. McCarthy's caddie had indeed been behind his player when lining up for his practice shot, but had moved away before McCarthy stepped off the ball, lined himself up and stook his proper stance. More protests followed, and this time the player was let off. 

It caused many to question the governing bodies of the game and ask for them to clarify the rule, and they have since obliged in the statement issued below. 

"The R&A and the USGA have provided two clarifications to Rule 10.2b(4) regarding restrictions on caddies standing behind players which take immediate effect," the statement reads.

"The purpose of Rule 10.2 is to reinforce the fundamental challenge of making a stroke and to limit the advice and other help a player may receive during a round.

"Rule 10.2b(4) ensures that aiming at the intended target is a challenge that the player must overcome alone. It states:

“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 the player’s 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.” 

The two clarifications provided today can be summarised as follows:

> Meaning of “Begins Taking a Stance for the Stroke”: 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. 

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. Several examples are given in the clarification to provide additional guidance.

The complete language to the two major clarifications can be found by clicking here

These clarifications confirm the recent rulings given in relation to Rule 10.2b(4).