When it comes to reading a putt's break, members of a four-ball team may stand nearly anywhere on the green to watch a partner putt, with one exception: They're not allowed to stand on or close to an extension of the player's line of putt behind the ball (Rule 14-2b). The line is defined as the route that the player wishes his ball to take after a stroke on the putting green. It includes a reasonable distance on either side of the intended line. The prohibition against standing near the extension of the line means that a partner can't stand just to the left or the right of the extension. The player making the stroke would be assessed a two-stroke penalty if his partner stood on or near the extension of the line behind the ball during the stroke.
It's important to note that the line doesn't extend beyond the hole, so a partner may stand on the opposite side of the cup while the stroke is being made. You're allowed to stand on an extension of the line of putt after the stroke, so it's permissible to walk in behind a ball after it has started rolling.
Before the stroke, the partner and the team's caddies are allowed to stand anywhere to assess the break, but Rule 8-2b prohibits them from touching the green to indicate the line. This includes touching the green with a club or even placing a marker down. You can point, but don't touch. If you do, the player making the stroke incurs a two-shot penalty.
YOUR QUESTIONS ANSWERED
Q: I played with a guy in a tournament who beat his handicap by nine strokes. What are the odds?
A: If he were an average golfer, the odds are 3,577-to-1. For a player with a course handicap of 15, and the Course Rating close to 70, he should average three over his handicap, or an 88, and play to his handicap (85) one in six rounds. To beat his handicap by nine means to score a gross 76 for a net 61. His Handicap Committee should investigate him. You can find the USGA's probability table here (in Appendix E).
By Dean Knuth, Golf Digest Professional Advisor. Former senior director of the USGA handicap department, Knuth invented today's Course Rating and Slope system.
IT HAPPENED ON TOUR
2008 HSBC Champions, Shanghai, China
RULE IN QUESTION
4-3b: Damage to club other than in normal course of play
Kim damaged his driver when he struck a sprinkler head with the club as he walked down the seventh fairway. "I wasn't angry," Kim said. "I was just walking down the fairway, and the toe of the club hit the top of the sprinkler." After hitting two bad drives on No. 8 -- his first went only 150 yards -- Kim noticed the club was altered. He called for a rules official but played two more holes before conferring with senior referee Andy McFee.
Kim was disqualified for using a nonconforming driver. Rule 4-3b states that if a player's club is damaged other than in the normal course of play, it's rendered nonconforming and must not be used or replaced during a round.