Rule 16-1d seems fairly easy to understand when it states a player may not test the surface of any putting green by rolling a ball or roughing or scraping the surface. Of course, this also applies to the player’s caddie.
A question about this came up in the season-opening PGA Tour’s Hyundai Tournament of Champions. On the Golf Channel, Chad Reynolds, the caddie for Nick Watney, was shown kneeling down behind Watney in lining up a putt. Reynolds moved his hand back and forth in a swiping motion several times as if he was trying to check the grain on the green. It was obvious his hand did not touch the putting surface. But then his hand moved closer and it was difficult to see if he touched the green. On the video, it appeared Watney turned around and I thought I heard him ask his caddie if he was testing the surface.
PGA Tour rules official Slugger White discussed the matter with Watney and Reynolds after the round. Obviously, Reynolds indicated he had no intentions of testing the surface.So after checking the video, White deemed the caddie never actually touched the green and so Watney avoided a possible two-stroke penalty.
As expected, Watney supported his caddie. “I honestly don’t think he touched the grass,” Watney told Curt Byrum on the Golf Channel. “If he says he didn’t, he’s my man and I’m going with it.”
Reynolds added, “There was no intention, there was no wrongdoing.”
My question is still: Why would a veteran caddie do something like that? I’m sure whatever it was that it probably didn’t help Watney with the putt that he made to save par. A quick check of the decisions book clears up any question by saying that even if the player does not receive any information that a penalty is still involved.
I did think it was interesting that a player could put the palm of his hand on the green behind his ball to test if the green was wet. However, if he did that on the line of his putt, it would be a violation.
Rubbing a ball on the green for the purpose of cleaning it would be OK, but the USGA recommends doing it in other ways to eliminate any question as to a player’s intentions.
Reynolds and other caddies should probably take the same advice about getting their hands even close to a putting surface, especially with all the cameras around.
Rolling the ball on the green can be considered testing the surface, too. I found this out when playing in the finals of the Hillandale Member-Guest. I marked my partner’s ball and pitched it back under handed to him. Our opponents asked referee Dale Humphrey about a possible rules violation, but he deeded it wasn’t after I indicated that I was just getting his ball back to him. After that, I was always sure to walk over and hand the ball back if I marked it.