The Backstop Stops Here

The most egregious violation of the spirit of golf currently practiced on all the professional tours, and therefore by definition in all your club tournaments by people parroting their tour idols, is the use of “backstopping” on the green.

Essentially it comes down to one pro hitting a pitch shot in close proximity of the hole and deciding not to mark the ball before a fellow competitor with a similar shot plays their approach.  What results is the opportunity of the second player to use the first player’s ball as a backstop to keep their approach from wandering further past the hole.

Amy Olson and #1 Player in the World, Ariya Jutanugarn, celebrating a successful incident of backstopping on the 18th hole at the Honda LPGA Thailand in 2019

This practice has been supported as some unwritten creed by players on all the professional tours for a long time.  If things like fixing ball marks and divots or calling out a playing partner who has broken a rule are considered practices that protect interests of all the players in the competition, then how can such a practice as backstopping be tolerated?

Select broadcasting personalities have called this out on occasion but truthfully the broader group of golf pundits are as complicit as the players in this travesty by condoning it through their deafening silence when they see it occur.

As you can read in this article from Yahoo! Sports, two well known tour players not only did this in the full view of an international TV audience recently at the Honda LPGA Thailand event but they had the audacity to celebrate the success of their action after it worked out.

As the articles says, there is language in the USGA Rules that specifically addresses behaviors of this type.  It is simply the neglect of tour officials to identify and penalize players who practice this that allows it to continue.

If the term “protecting the field” is to mean anything in golf competition this practice needs to be called out by the powers that be on all the tours.  For the good of the game, they must insist that players cease and desist from this foul practice immediately.

Yahoo! Sports (February 2019)

(Click to read the recent  Yahoo! Sports article on backstopping on the LPGA Tour)

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