|A player new to this hole could not know the line of play without assistance|
The Rules of Golf have evolved continuously for more than 250 years, so that they now cover practically every situation that can possibly arise on the golf course, either by direct reference to the 34 Rules in the Rules book, or where further clarification is required, through one of the 1,200 plus Decisions in the current Decisions on the Rules of Golf book. However, from time to time situations arise on the golf course where even Rules experts differ in arriving at the correct ruling. Recently, I have been challenged on my interpretation of the Rules relating to Line of Play and Advice and now I am in a position where I cannot make up my mind as to whether I was right or wrong. I accept that this subject may be a little esoteric for some regular readers, but offer it as an illustration as to how matters are not always black and white when officials make golf rulings (although they usually are!).
I will start by providing the Definitions of Line of Play and Advice;
The “line of play’’ is the direction that the player wishes his ball to take after a stroke, plus a reasonable distance on either side of the intended direction. The line of play extends vertically upwards from the ground, but does not extend beyond the hole.
“Advice’’ is any counsel or suggestion that could influence a player in determining his play, the choice of a club or the method of making a stroke.This is the Rule that is at the root of the disagreement that perplexes me;
Information on the Rules, distance or matters of public information, such as the position of hazards or the flagstick on the putting green, is not advice.
8-2. Indicating Line of PlayAnd now for the scenario from one of my ‘How Many Strokes?’ questions, which is the subject of the disagreement;
a. Other Than on Putting Green
Except on the putting green, a player may have the line of play indicated to him by anyone, but no one may be positioned by the player on or close to the line or an extension of the line beyond the hole while the stroke is being made. Any mark placed by the player or with his knowledge to indicate the line must be removed before the stroke is made.
George is a senior, high handicapper who has played golf for 50 years. His eyesight is not the best. On the third teeing ground, a blind shot up a steep incline he asks his fellow competitor to show him the direction that he should be playing his ball. (See the above photo for an illustration of a similar location).In my answer, I said that George’s request did not incur a penalty. Some other Rules aficionados agree with that ruling, but just as many claim that a penalty of two strokes was incurred for asking for advice from a fellow competitor. Their case is that;
The Line of Play is "the direction that the player wishes his ball to take after a stroke". It is not the direction someone else thinks you should be playing.A further amplification of this argument is that;
So, it would be fine for a player to state that he wants to play up the left side of the fairway and ask his fellow competitor which tree on the horizon would that be, but asking him to show him the direction he should be playing his ball is asking how the hole should be played.
Only the player himself is permitted to select his line of play. Once he has selected that line, he may get someone to indicate it. For example, the player might be in a position where he has selected his line of play, having walked to the brow of a hill, but knows that he will not be able to see the target line when he returns to the teeing ground, and so he asks someone stand on the line to indicate it for him as he prepares for his stroke and then move away before he the stroke is made.On the other side of the discussion the question is asked why, if the above arguments are correct, Rule 8-2a exists. They claim that Rule 8-2a overrides Rule 8-1; otherwise it would not be needed, as Rule 8-1 plus the Definition of Advice fulfills the above argument without it. They also point out that there are no Decisions for Rule 8-2a that qualify my highlighted first clause of that Rule in any way. Literally, the clause would appear to permit anyone to point out a line of play anywhere other than on the putting green, without penalty.
Another opinion is that the Rule 8-2a clause only applies to the line to the hole and does not permit a player to ask, or be given, any information other than that, because the Definition of Line of Play is literally limited to the direction that the player wishes his ball to take and does not leave room for information to be received from another player.
I have already admitted that I am now uncertain as to which interpretation is correct. However, here are some of the points that originally led me to believe that a player could assist a fellow competitor in pointing out a line of play;
- Why would the Rules disadvantage a player who has not played a hole before from knowing the line of play, especially on a blind tee shot?
- Why cause unnecessary delays to play by obliging a player to walk forward to the brow of a hill, or around the corner of a dog-leg, to see what lies in front of them before assessing their line of play?
- Is it logical to not permit a player from providing public information about the course that may also be obtained from a local caddie, course signage with an illustration of the hole, an overhead photo of the hole (e.g. from an electronic device), or large painted stones or marker posts that have been specifically positioned to indicate the optimum line of play?
- Decisions 14-3/5 and 14-3/16 expressly permit the use of advice-related matters that have been produced prior to the start of the player's round, e.g. a Strokesaver that might even include the Pro’s tips on how to play the hole, which probably provide considerably more information on how to play the hole than just the line of play.
- A common dictionary definition of ‘indicate’ is ‘point out’. If we substitute these words in the contentious part of Rule 8-2a, it reads, “a player may have the line of play pointed out to him by anyone”, which to me, in this scenario, includes the place from where the stroke is to be made, not just a point on the brow of the hill.
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