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. No one ever took offense with that. It was the rule's hazy interpretation in penalizing Haotong Li and Denny McCarthy just five days apart however, that infuriated the golf world.
Rule 10.2b(4) ensures that aiming at the intended target is a challenge that the player must overcome alone, and 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 summarized as follows:
Meaning of "Begins Taking a Stance for the StrokeIf 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 StrokeAs 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, and the complete language to these two clarifications can be found here.
These major clarifications confirm the recent rulings given in relation to Rule 10.2b(4), and as such Haotong Li would still be penalized, while Denny McCarthy would not.
USGA Senior Managing Director of Governance, Thomas Pagel said,
"Experience has taught us that introducing a new Rule requires us to balance patience with a willingness to act quickly when necessary. With so many pivotal changes to the Rules this year, we've committed to offering any assistance needed in making the Rules easier to understand and apply, without taking away the inherent challenge of playing the game. We appreciate that everyone involved in drafting these clarifications worked together with this same goal in mind."R&A Executive Director, David Rickman said,
"These clarifications are designed to improve the operation of the Rule and give the players more opportunity to avoid a breach while remaining true to the purpose of the Rule. We appreciate that this requires some players and caddies to make an adjustment, but we believe there is widespread acceptance that it is for the player alone to line up a shot."
A spirit of collaboration has been central to the initiative to modernize golf's Rules since it began in 2012 and the USGA and The R&A consulted with various entities in the game, including the LPGA Tour, the European Tour and the PGA Tour, to ensure an appropriate level of guidance has been given through these clarifications. Clarifications provide additional guidance on a Rule based on the circumstances that may arise in applying it, and they are part of ongoing list provided to players and referees.
A full list of clarifications to golf's new Rules can be found on USGA.org/RulesClarifications and will be incorporated into the USGA's and The R&A's respective Rules of Golf apps later this year.
Golf's new Rules were finalized in March 2018, following a worldwide comment period and testing, and educational materials can be found at USGA.org/rules. For more information, please visit www.USGA.org or www.RandA.org.