Is This Considered Backstopping?

Remember a few weeks ago when Amy Olson’s ball hit Ariya Jutanugarn ball on the green and stopped near the hole. Social media went crazy and claimed that Olson had breached rule 15.3a that “clearly states that for a breach to occur, that two or more players must agree to leave a ball in place to help any player on her next stroke.” (USA Today) Neither was penalized, but the brew-ha-ha boarded on the edge of insanity if you asked me. So what about this shot?

Of course the player is about 50 yards away making a chip in normal play. But, the ball she hit was about the same distance from the pin as Jutanugarn’s during the controversy. It would be lunacy to thing that any rules official would consider this backstopping; it was just the rub of the green.

For Rule 15.3a to even be considered, in my mind, two things must happen. First, the players, before the time of stroke, have to make some kind of backroom deal where they will do what they can to help each other out. I have never come across a situation like this in the year’s have played and doubt I ever will.

Second is distance from the green. I feel I am a fairly strong player, but never has it occurred to me to use another players ball as a backstop to prevent my ball from going farther past the hole. I figure that if I am 10 yards or farther from the green, the chances of me hitting someone’s golf ball is slim at best. I can count on one hand the number of times this has happened over my career.

I understand that using someone’s ball as a backstop is possible, but in the big scheme of things is not a strategy for success.

What do you think of rule 15.3a? Do you think backstopping is a real issue?

I am a grateful golfer! See you on the links!

11 thoughts on “Is This Considered Backstopping?

  1. I think backstopping is done occasionally on the pro tours even though no verbal agreement to do so. Finau was helped tremendously a couple of years ago. And there was absolutely no reason for his playing partner to NOT mark his ball. Players in stroke play events have an obligation to protect the field. I am a USGA Certified rules official and backstopping is a challenging rule to officiate. Example: In PGA tour event, Player A is just off the green and Player B is on green near the hole. If A doesn’t ask for ball to be marked and B doesn’t automatically mark then one could surmise that a non verbal agreement has been made. Why else would they do this? In match play no issue as only opponent(s) are playing with you. However, your opponents have the right to ask your partner to mark ball.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Dave,

      Thanks for weighing in. Obviously I am by no means an expert and would not have thought this an issue. But your interpretation above about not marking the ball indicates that the players are being penalized by what you interpret their intent to be….seems very challenging to make that call. I do not envy you when officiating.

      Cheers Jim


      • Thanks Jim. For the record, I’ve never seen it called but I do think it happens. I’m unsure why any player would knowingly help the opposition.

        Liked by 1 person

  2. Jim, generally not an issue. However, 15.3a states two players must agree to leave a ball in place to incur a two-stroke penalty for backstopping. Consider if we are partners in a match and I have a fast downhill chip. Your ball is on the green three feet past the hole. It makes sense for you to leave your ball on the green to backstop for me if my chip comes in hot. If we both “know” what to do, but do not verbally agree to leave your ball on the green, is it a rules violation?



    Liked by 1 person

  3. That was an approach shot on a par 4. Anyone accusing a rules violation on that shot needs to have their head examined. That was nothing more than a lucky break. It makes me wonder what they expect players to do. Mark every approach shot that lands on the green? That would surely make play slow to a crawl.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Kevin

      I agree. You now see the foolishness of some of the rules. I think backstopping is a joke and would never call anyone on it. Now, if two people were cheating for each other…..then that is a different story. Thanks for adding to my article.

      Cheers Jim

      Liked by 1 person

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