It might sound innocent enough on a golf course to hear the following refrain fro one golfer to another one: “You are playing the ball too forward in your stance.” I’m sure that I’ve done it in a friendly round with my golfing buddies. However, it’s definitely not allowed for touring professionals or in any tournament using USGA rules.
Tom Watson found this out when he was cruising along with a big lead in the final round of the 1980 Tournament of Champions at the Las Costa Resort paired with Lee Trevino. Seeing Trevino struggling with his game, Watson uttered a similar tip since he wanted to help Trevino. The only problem was that it was caught on television and a viewer called to ask if that was permitted.
When the PGA Tour officials caught up with Watson as he got to the scorer’s tent and asked about the incident, Watson admitted he had given advice and was assessed a two-stroke penalty. He still won by three strokes. However, if he had signed his scorecard, he would have been disqualified. Trevino was not penalized since he had not sought the advice.
What happens if your caddie tells another player’s caddie what club you used on a par 3? Well, it resulted in a two-stroke penalty for touring pro Mark Wilson in the 2006 Honda Classic as it was considered giving advice. A player is responsible for the actions of his caddie. Despite the penalty, Wilson still took home the title.
What if a player said, “I should have used a 5-iron?” Well, if the statement was made casually, there is no breach. If it was made to another player about to play from a similar position, it is considered advice. If a player made such a statement so that it could be overheard by an opponent in match play, he would lose the hole being played.
Asking a fellow competitor what club he used after he hit his shot would be a violation. If he answered, he would be penalized, too. If the conversation happened on the green after both had reached it, there would be no violation. The advice rule applies only to a stipulated round. So a player who has finished his round could tell another player what he hit on the par 3s before that player started the round.
Looking into another player’s bag to see what he might have used for an approach shot is OK, but removing a towel to do it would be a violation.
Suggesting to another player that his ball might be unplayable could also be considered giving advice; but just telling him his options under the rules would not.
Information regarding distance between any two objects is considered public information and therefore is not advice. So it is OK to ask another player, maybe one with a good range finder, about distances.
Of course, caddies can always give their players advice. Whether they use it or not is up to the players. A swing coach could not give advice during a stipulated round. It would have to be prior to and after the round.
In a team competition, partners can also share information and assist each other with the lines of their putts if they wish. However, if two players on the same team happened to be riding together but playing separate singles matches, any sharing of information would not be permitted.
As a condition of the competition for an event like the Ryder Cup or one of the college or high school tournaments, a team captain or coach can be allowed to give advice