Monday, June 24, 2013

Caddie Responsibilities

     After yesterday's public shouting from Bubba Watson at his caddie, I think it may be time to review the responsibilities of a caddie and what he can and can't do under the Rules of Golf.  There are several Rules that relate directly to the caddie and are important for every looper to know before stepping up for a player in a competition.

Rule 6-1. Rules
The player and his caddie are responsible for knowing the Rules.  During a stipulated round, for any breach of a Rule by his caddie, the player incurs the applicable penalty.

     We saw this clearly a few months ago when Stacy Lewis' caddie tested the condition of a hazard in breach of Rule 13-4 by twisting his foot slightly while standing in the bunker.  Lewis was penalized the applicable two-stroke penalty.  In that situation, she was very gracious and did not berate her caddie at all.  She went on to shoot 64 and win the event by several strokes.

Rule 6-4. Caddie
The player may be assisted by a caddie, but he is limited to only one caddie at any one time.

     Two notable things about this Rule: 1) it is a maximum penalty per round Rule, meaning that if a player is discovered to have been using two caddies for seven holes, he only incurs a two-stroke penalty at the first two holes or would have the match adjusted by only two holes - not seven.  2) If you breach the Rule and it becomes known, you must cease having two caddies immediately.  If at any point later in the round you have two caddies again, you are disqualified.  This is thought of as a "must correct or DQ" but in reality it's not.  It's a "stop now and don't do it again or DQ."
     This Rule came into play during the final match of the California State Amateur this past week.  Dechambeau's father was caddying, but with bad knees at the 15th hole his father asked if it was permitted for him to cease being a caddie and for Dechambeau's coach to step in permanently.  The answer is of course, yes with some guidelines:  a) the coach cannot be stepping in only briefly for the purpose of exchanging a specific piece of advice (see Decision 8-1/26); and b) the two cannot be caddying at the same time.  Once the switch was made, Dechambeau's father had to cease giving advice or performing any actions of a caddie.

Decision 6-4/10 - Acts Which Caddie May Perform

    Fortunately there is a Decision that tells us exactly what a caddie can and cannot do without the explicit permission of the player.  A caddie, without the player's authority may:
Search for the player's ball in accordance with Rule 12-1, place the player's clubs in a hazard (Exception 1 to Rule 13-4), repair old ball marks and hole plugs, remove loose impediments on the line of putt or elsewhere as permitted, mark the position of the ball without lifting it (the caddie needs the player's authority to lift the ball), clean the player's ball and remove movable obstructions.
     The caddie may not drop the ball for the player, or declare the ball unplayable.  He may not lift the ball without the player's authority and may not place the ball.  He may only replace the ball if he was authorized to lift it and did so.

Rule 14-2b. Positioning of Caddie or Partner Behind Ball
A player must not make a stroke with his caddie, his partner or his partner's caddie positioned on or close to an extension of the line of play or line of putt behind the ball.
EXCEPTION:  There is no penalty if the player's caddie, his partner or his partner's caddie is inadvertently located on or close to an extension of the line of play or line of putt behind the ball.

     We see this most commonly on the LPGA Tour where caddies frequently line their players up for the shot and then step slightly to the side.  The Rule came about years ago when the USGA noticed Annika Sorenstam and other players would leave their caddies positioned directly behind them for a stroke.  They asked her why she did that and she stated that it helped remove the distractions from the crown behind her.  The next Rules change year came around and the action was no longer permitted.

Decision 7-1b/5 - Competitor's Caddie Practices or Tests Putting Green Surfaces of the Course Before Stroke-Play Round
Q.  In stroke play, a competitor's caddie practices on or tests the putting green surfaces of the course before the competitor tees off.  Is the competitor disqualified under Rule 7-1b?
A.  No.  A competitor is responsible for the actions of his caddie only during a stipulated round.

     Obviously this is one of the most important decisions for Tour caddies.  In between or prior to stroke play rounds caddies frequently go and test the greens for their players.  This is how they get such extensive and thorough yardage guides for their players.  And all these actions are permitted because a caddie is not a caddie under the Rules until the stipulated round begins.

     So as you can see, the Rules clearly show what caddies can and cannot do.  The most important thing they cannot do, however, is hit the ball for the player.

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