Rules Guy: Can you use the pin as a practice aid on the green?

September 3, 2019

The Rules of Golf are tricky! Thankfully, we’ve got the guru. Our Rules Guy knows the book front to back. Got a question? He’s got all the answers.

My group was on the green, with the pin taken out. While Player A putted, Player B swung his putter over the prone pin, working on the arc of his stroke. After needling Player B that no amount of practice would help him, we later wondered if using the pin as an aid is a no-no. —JIM DOWNS, BRISTOL, R.I.

Rules Guy himself wonders if your use of “needling” is a play on the word “pin”— if so, well played! Regardless, practice putting over a prone pin to pinpoint one’s path is perfectly proper and permissible. (Phew!) However, under Rule 4.3a, using an alignment stick for the same purpose is not permitted, because that falls under the category of training aid. You get the general penalty (loss of hole in match play or two strokes in stroke play) for the first breach and are disqualified for a subsequent breach, so spare the rod on the course.

Got a rules question? Of course you do! Whatever it may be, send yours to and the question may be answered in an upcoming issue of GOLF. Until then, play by the Rules!