In the wake of controversies involving Haotong Li on the European Tour and Denny McCarthy on the PGA Tour, both tours took public stances against Rule 10.2b(4), the portion of the new Rules of Golf which governs where a caddie can stand in relationship to their player's stance and intended line.
First, European Tour chief executive Keith Pelley called the two-stroke penalty called on Li on the final hole of the Omega Dubai Desert Classic "grossly unfair" and asked the R&A and USGA to look at rewording the rule. R&A chief executive Martin Slumbers publicly declined.
Then, the PGA Tour rescinded the two-stroke penalty assessed against Denny McCarthy when his caddie Derek Smith stood behind McCarthy while making clear practice strokes near the ball at the Phoenix Open. The PGA Tour consulted with the governing bodies before making the declaration and determining they would not enforce the rule as written.
Now the USGA and R&A have quickly come together to propose different language for Rule 10.2b(4), which was written largely to discourage caddies from lining up players up to the millisecond before they took back the club. What they've come up with appears to be the correct solution.
There are two key clarifications to the rule:
- Changing the meaning of what it means when a player "begins taking a stance for the stroke” -- Now, a player will be able to back away from their stance, even if their caddie was standing behind them at the time they took the stance, and reset their routine without penalty. Previously, this was allowed on the putting green without penalty but not throughout the rest of the golf course. This allows for player-caddie conversation and discussion of line, then giving the player a chance to go through their final routine.
- Clarifying situations where a caddie is not "deliberately" standing behind the ball when a player begins taking their stance -- Under the Rule as written, a player is not penalized if their caddie was incidentally standing behind their player's line. There is now clarification of examples where a caddie would not be considered to be doing this "deliberately," such as looking down at a yardage book, raking a bunker behind a player, a player tapping in a putt with a caddie not knowing the player is in front of them.
These clarifications to the rule mean it will be applied equally throughout the golf course, give a player a chance to avoid the penalty and make it more clear (though nothing is perfectly clear) when a caddie is considered to have broken Rule 10.2b(4).
The penalty for deliberately standing behind a player or in their intended line when the player begins to take their stance for a shot they ultimately hit will remain two strokes.