PGA Championship

Valhalla Golf Club

The Loop

Rules of advice

March 08, 2010

After shooting a 65 Sunday to finish second in the Toshiba Classic on the Champions Tour, Ronnie Black talked about how he had been working to stand taller at address and swing the club more around his body. "I get a little scrunchy in my posture, reaching for the ball, and the club starts flipping over," Black said. "It promotes me getting too vertical."

Black's wife, Sandra, knows his game and understands his swing. She was in his gallery at Newport Beach (Calif.) CC for the final round and positioned herself so he could see her as he walked toward the par-5 15th hole. "She came up to me and mimicked what the posture is supposed to be," Black said. "She didn't say a word. She just mimicked the posture, gave me the 'Come on dude,' and that's when I made my best two swings of the day, made the eagle. So I got to give her a little kudos there."

The situation presented an interesting window into the advice rule. Advice does not have to be spoken. A player indicating to a fellow competitor what club he hit by holding up a certain number of fingers would be a violation. It turns out Black was OK because he hadn't initiated the communication with his wife and it was the only time it occurred during play.

"Rule 8-1 prohibits a player from asking for advice from a spectator but does not prohibit a player from receiving unsolicited advice because the player can't control such an act" said John Morrissett, who is director, Rules of Golf, for the USGA.

However, Decision 8-1/24 (Advice Given by Team Coach or Captain) is analogous to what happened with Black. There is no penalty when an authorized party gives advice, but "the player should take action to stop this irregular procedure." He would incur a two-stroke penalty in stroke play if he allowed such advice to be given again.

After being informed of how Black described his on-course interaction with his wife Monday, Morrissett reached Champions Tour rules official Jim Witherspoon, who phoned Black. According to Morrissett, the golfer confirmed to Witherspoon that was the only time his wife communicated with him about his swing during the round.

"You can't penalize a player for receiving unsolicited advice," said Morrissett. "But what you can do is penalize him if it continues to happen. If, a hole later, she had done something similar and he hadn't done anything to prevent it, there could have been an issue. In this case, there was no breach of the rules."

-- Bill Fields