Most golfers are aware that they may not purposely touch their line of putt, but there are a number of exceptions in Rule 16-1a, which are listed below. Note that part of the Definition of Line of Putt states this includes a ‘reasonable distance on either side of the intended line’. However, fewer golfers seem aware that they must not touch anywhere on the surface of the putting green while pointing out a suggested line of putt, even if that point is way off the intended line, or is behind the hole. In the above photo, the player’s partner, or caddie has touched the end of the flagstick behind the hole in pointing out their suggested line of putt, so the player incurs a penalty of two strokes in stroke play, or loss of hole in match play under Rule 8-2b;
When the player's ball is on the putting green, the player, his partner or either of their caddies may, before but not during the stroke, point out a line for putting, but in so doing the putting green must not be touched. A mark must not be placed anywhere to indicate a line for putting.So, it follows that in pointing out a line of putt, a player may not touch the putting surface with their finger, the toe of their shoe, their putter, the flagstick, or anything else. They may point to the suggested line, but they must not touch the surface of the putting green while doing so.
These are the exceptions listed in Rule 16-1a to the general principle that players may not touch their line of putt;
The line of putt must not be touched except:Good golfing,
(i) the player may remove loose impediments, provided he does not press anything down;
(ii) the player may place the club in front of the ball when addressing it, provided he does not press anything down;
(iii) in measuring - Rule 18-6;
(iv) in lifting or replacing the ball - Rule 16-1b;
(v) in pressing down a ball-marker;
(vi) in repairing old hole plugs or ball marks on the putting green - Rule 16-1c; and
(vii) in removing movable obstructions - Rule 24-1.
(Indicating line for putting on putting green - see Rule 8-2b)
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