I was playing in a tournament and grouped with two other players I'd never met. On one fairway, I noticed that a distance marker was right in front of one of my competitors. Rather than walking up to it, I called out to him and asked what the distance was. Before he could even respond, the other player in our group stormed up and shouted that I couldn't ask a competitor for help with my distances, and that he would report the incident to tournament officials if I asked again. Not wanting to ruffle any feathers, I obliged and found the distance myself. Was this guy right, or just being a jerk? I feel like it was the latter.
— Mark F., via e-mail
When dealing with the Rules of Golf, I rarely tell golfers to trust their instincts, but in this case, yours were dead on: Your competitor was both wrong and a jerk. According to Decision 8-1/2, information about the distance between two objects (including your ball in the green) is considered public knowledge. That means that passing that information between players or caddies, whether they are partners or competitors, is not considered giving or receiving advice under Rule 8. Tell your third wheel that his argument is way off, and if he ever asks you for a distance, feel free to tell him to take long walk off a short pier.