Rule 8 of Golf: Line of Play

Limiting Advice and Guidance for Strokes

Golf general view
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 In order to maintain a fair and even competition, the United States Golfers Association (USGA) has designated a certain set of rules for professional golfers to abide by titled "The Official Rules of Golf," and the eighth rule stipulates advice may only be given to partners and dictates how and when a player can indicate the line of play of a ball.

Advice, according to the USGA rules, refers to indicating anything from how a ball rolls on the putting green to where there are divots on the fairway and is absolutely forbidden except for between partners or when asking for advice from a player's caddy.

Indicating the line of play, on the other hand, refers to anyone assisting a golfer by pointing out where the hole is in relation to the ball, but there are specific times an assistant may indicate this line and when he or she may not.

Indicating Line of Play

Even when it comes to playing with a partner on any given course, when a player is anywhere other than the putting green, he or she may ask for help identifying the line of play for the ball to the hole, but "no one may be positioned by the player on or close to the line...beyond the hole while the stroke is being made.

Also known as addressing the ball, this can come in handy when a player is trying to frame up the shot from far off down the fairway, but cannot be used when the stroke is being made so presents a few disadvantages in general (including confusion).

However, on the putting green, it's a different story. According to Rule 8.2b, "When the player's ball is on the putting green, the line of putt may be indicated before, but not during, the stroke by the player, his partner or either of their caddies; in doing so the putting green must not be touched;" also, there cannot be a mark placed to indicate a line of putt.

Penalties and the Exceptions

As with most rules, there are consequences for breaking the any of the rules in the USGA "The Official Rules of Golf," but they are really no more severe than any other common breaking of a rule: during match play breaking the rule results in a loss of hole while during stroke play the player loses two strokes.

"The Committee may, in the conditions of a team competition (Rule 33-1), permit each team to appoint one person who may give advice (including pointing out a line for putting) to members of that team," according to the USGA rules. "The Committee may establish conditions relating to the appointment and permitted the conduct of that person, who must be identified to the Committee before giving advice."

Generally speaking, it's just poor form to attempt to work around either of these subpoints of rule eight because doing so would provide an unfair advantage.