As a golf fanatic, you have seen numerous talks around sports websites and social media platforms about golfers both on the LPGA and PGA Tour doing “backstopping”.
Although backstopping is within the rules of golf, it is a practice that has experts, players, and fans debating on whether it is the right thing to do or not. If you are wondering what is backstopping in golf, we are here to break down everything about it. Read on to get more information about backstopping in golf.
What is backstopping?
Backstopping occurs when one golf player consciously or unconsciously does not mark the ball when on the green, particularly when the ball is closer to the hole. This act gives other golf players who are not on the green an added advantage if they hit the unmarked golf ball, which will act as a “backstop” to their own ball.
If the golf balls collide, then the player that hits the other ball will play from where the ball came to rest. On the other hand, the player that did not mark their golf ball can return it to its original position. In this case, neither of the players is penalized.
Opponents of backstopping cite fairness to other players and the rest of the field, which is fairly obvious. No golf player wants an individual who misses the cut to assist the player who is leading a golf tournament by providing him/her with a backboard that they can use beyond the cup.
Proponents of backstopping cite the pace of play since it takes time for players to mark their ball. The whole issue of backstopping in golf begun in June 2018 when one PGA Tour player, Jimmy Walker got into a tiff on Twitter over issue of backstopping. Now, we all have to face this modern backstopping controversy, whether it is unintentional or not.
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Does Backstopping Break The Rules?
Backstopping can be a breach of golf rules and in some cases it is allowed. Rule 22-1 of the Rules of Golf states that “In stroke play, if the Committee determines that competitors have agreed not to lift a ball that might assist any competitor, they are disqualified.” This rule seems pretty clear, however, the main problem is that leaving the ball unmarked close to the hole is not against the rules, but leaving the ball uplifted to assist a competitor goes against the rules.
The issue is that it is hard to prove whether competitors have colluded with each other or they are just lazy to mark and lift their golf balls. As a result, very few backstopping penalties can be handed out if any.
Is Backstopping a Problem?
Truth is that backstopping is a growing problem because it goes against the spirit of protecting the field during a tournament. Backstopping is unfair to other playing golfers if it helps one player. This is because it can cost someone a title or the field prize money.
However, backstopping does happen and professional players have admitted to this. The PGA Tour wants to crack down on backstopping because it is becoming a big problem. However, this issue will remain a gray area of golf, until the rules are clarified to eliminate the ambiguities of intent.
It is without a doubt that backstopping in golf is a hotly debated issue that will not go away anytime soon. However, with all the fuss about it on social platforms and sports websites, the associated professional tours around the world and governing bodies are looking into the problem. We will have to wait and see what the PGA and LPGA Tour say about backstopping in golf.