The Rules of Golf: Giving a competitor advice

Jenny Yu
By Jenny Yu June 10, 2018 12:43

Shona McRae, Assistant Director – Rules, The R&A, explains what advice players in competitions are allowed to give their fellow competitors if there is confusion over a rule.

During the final round of the WGC-Mexico Championship this March, 21-year old Shubhankar Sharma looked to the experience of PGA Tour veteran, Phil Mickelson, to help him out when his ball came to rest amongst some television wires and cables.

His approach shot to the 5th hole finished through the back of the green and came to rest amongst some television cables that were lying on the ground. Sharma was keen to move them out of his way so he could play the shot unimpeded.

MEXICO CITY, MEXICO – MARCH 03: Shubhankar Sharma of India plays his shot from the 17th tee during the third round of World Golf Championships-Mexico Championship at Club de Golf Chapultepec on March 3, 2018 in Mexico City, Mexico. (Photo by Rob Carr/Getty Images)

Sharma was unsure if he could move the cables or if he had to treat them as immovable and take a free drop. Normally, Tour players would look for the assistance of a referee or the committee when in doubt, but knowing the procedure was relatively simple, Mickelson stepped in to offer his assistance to his younger fellow-competitor.

Information on the Rules, distance or matters of public information, such as the position of a bunker or the flagstick, is not advice. Advice is any counsel or suggestion that can influence a player in determining his or her play, the choice of club or the method of making a stroke.

Providing information on the Rules is different from suggesting to a player that he or she take a certain course of action. For example, in a competition if Player A finds his ball in a particularly horrible situation, with no shot at all, Player B is prohibited from suggesting that he deem the ball unplayable and take penalty relief. This constitutes advice as it could influence Player A in determining his play.

However, if Player B provided guidance on how to take the unplayable drop once Player A has decided to do so, this would be permissible.

Therefore, Mickelson was free to advise his fellow-competitor that he could move the cables and if the ball moved, he just had to put it back without penalty. He was able to provide this direction without either player incurring a penalty for giving or receiving advice.

So, while receiving guidance on the Rules from a fellow-competitor is perfectly acceptable, it is worth noting that ultimately the player is responsible for getting the procedure correct. If in doubt, seek the assistance of a referee or a Committee member.

Shona McRae

To find out more about the Rules of Golf, visit


Jenny Yu
By Jenny Yu June 10, 2018 12:43
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1 Comment

  1. Referay June 14, 13:50

    As a County Referee I understand Shona’s explanation. It is similar to a referee who will give a player of his options in a situation but not advise him what to do. So, presumably Phil could have given Sharma all his options under the rules?

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