Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Who's Your Caddie?

                Besides having an absolutely gorgeous day at the site of last year’s U.S. Open, Monday’s CGA Amateur qualifying at the Olympic Club's Ocean course went off virtually without a hitch.  As far as rulings go, there were no difficult rulings to be made with the exception of several players having to drop on the cart path when obtaining relief under Rule 26 or 28.  There was, however, a very interesting “non-ruling” that occurred along with an interesting discussion that went back to the USGA for a verdict.

                Due to a mishap with some caddies assigned through the club, a player with an injured neck looked to be left carrying his own bag.  The player in question was physically unable to carry the bag for the entire 18 holes and had been specifically warned by his doctor not to do so.  Through no fault of his own, the caddie did not show up.  Before deciding to withdraw he said he would try a few holes while carrying the bag on his other shoulder and see how it would go – perhaps the caddie would show up by the third hole which ended up near the clubhouse.

                At that time, his fellow-competitor offered to sling the bag for those few holes to help the player out.  We had a conundrum and it led to the question of the day – could a fellow-competitor be a caddie?

                The easy part of the answer is yes, with some stipulations.  Decisions 6-4/8 and 6-4/9 tell us that it is permissible for a fellow-competitor in the same competition to be a caddie for another player.  In 6-4/8, the players are playing at different times, presumably a morning and an afternoon time, and one is permitted to caddie for the other.  In 6-4/9, the player’s marker withdraws midway through the round and then proceeds to caddie for the player as well as continuing as the marker.  This decision is important for two reasons: 1) it permits a marker to also be a caddie and, 2) it is one of several Decisions that give us precedent for when a person becomes a caddie, “A became B’s caddie as well as his marker when he started carrying B’s clubs.” 

                The definition of caddie states:

A “caddie” is one who assists the player in accordance with the Rules, which may include carrying or handling the player’s clubs during play.”

Nowhere in the definition does it state that carrying clubs makes a person a caddie, only that a caddie’s duties may include doing so.  It is not until Decision 6-4/4 and Decision 6-4/9 that we have instances where a person is considered a caddie solely because he is carrying clubs.  In 6-4/4 the young boy is doing nothing but carrying clubs, however he is considered a caddie.

                There is one small loophole that could have helped our earlier friend with the injured neck – Decision 6-4/4.5.  This Decision states that the casual act of assisting the player or his caddie do not constitute a breach of Rule 6-4, meaning that a casual act of carrying clubs does not necessarily make another person a caddie.  In this instance, the fellow-competitor only carries the clubs for a brief amount of time, half of a hole perhaps.  It begs the question whether the Committee could consider a fellow-competitors compassion and generosity a casual act if he were to carry the clubs for an extended period of time?  I think the answer is no, there must be a limit.  I don’t know what that limit might be.

                So if we’ve determined that the act of carrying another player’s clubs would make a fellow-competitor a caddie.  Show me where in the Rules it says that a fellow-competitor cannot be caddie?  Well?  I’m waiting… Found it yet?  I bet you haven’t, because there is no place in the Rules that specifically states that a fellow-competitor cannot serve as a caddie while playing.  So why then, after discussion, would our source at the USGA state that it is not permissible?

                It takes a roundabout explanation but it makes sense.  Rule 8-1 states a player must not give advice to anyone in the competition playing on the course other than his partner.  A caddie is specifically someone who is permitted to give advice to a player.  Therefore, a player must not serve as a caddie to anyone else playing on the course other than his partner (and if you think about it, it is irrelevant whether a partner is a “caddie” because all relevant Rules would include both partner and caddie in lockstep).

                Someone brought up Rules 18 and 19 to me as a possible bar to a fellow-competitor as a caddie.  It’s a fair argument but really, that doesn’t prevent it the same way as 8-1.  Basically, the fellow-competitor would no longer be an outside agency which would mean the player himself would incur penalties under 18-2 or 19-2 for breaches by the fellow-competitor (if he were the caddie) but it really doesn’t affect the fellow-competitor because he would not incur penalties for those breaches.

                So the bottom line is that a fellow-competitor cannot play and caddie at the same time.  Why? Because 8-1 would not permit there to be such a person who is both permitted and not permitted to give advice at the same time.  Could he simply carry the clubs?  No.  The extended act of carrying clubs for the entire round would make the fellow-competitor a caddie by Decision. 

                Interesting stuff, right?


  1. Sorry for going back in history here Ryan, but I just recently discovered your blog (and love it!).

    Could the player or the committee not simply have recruited someone from the gallery to caddie for the young man? Surely given his neck injury, someone would have been happy to step up and do it.

    Was there something which prevented him or the committee from asking?

    1. Wade,

      Thanks for reading. If there was a gallery of any significance the player certainly could have recruited someone to caddie for him. At CGA qualifying there are few people following along as spectators. It is not the responsibility of the Committee to recruit caddies for players, and from a Committee perspective, if you're really injured...withdraw.