Thursday, 28 October 2010

Club-lengths Don't Have to be Measured

Here is a question that raises some interesting issues relating to club-lengths.
“Please resolve a dispute amongst our group of members at the Golf Club. When measuring club-lengths using a driver, does the head-cover have to be removed?”
Some readers may be surprised to hear that there is nothing in the Rules that says that a club must be used in measuring club-lengths. A drop is valid providing the ball first touches the course within the distance required by the Rule and does not come to rest in a place that requires it to be re-dropped (e.g. nearer the hole or out of bounds). Thus, one or two club-length distances may be estimated and don’t have to be accurately marked, although it is obviously wise to do so if you want to use the full extent of the relief that is available. If a club is used to define the extent of the area in which the ball is to be dropped there is no requirement for the head-cover to be removed. However, the measurement obviously does not include the extra length provided by the head-cover, as this is not part of the club.

There are a couple of other interesting points regarding measuring club-lengths. First, a player may use another competitor’s club to measure distances, but only if they carry a club in their bag that is as long, or longer, as the one that they have borrowed. If the player could not have achieved the same outcome by measuring with one of their own clubs they incur the penalty for playing from a wrong place (Decision 20/2).

The second situation is when a player taking relief under a Rule, uses their driver to measure two club-lengths prescribed in the relevant Rule. They drop their ball correctly and the ball rolls less than two driver-lengths, but more than two putter-lengths, from where the ball first struck a part of the course when dropped. If their ball comes to rest in a poor lie, may they then opt to use their putter to measure the distance their ball has rolled, in which case they could re-drop under Rule 20-2c and escape the poor lie? As you would expect, the answer is that they must continue to use the club originally used for measuring for all measuring in a given situation (Decision 20/1).

Before anyone reading this blog item writes to me asking if a player is permitted to use their long-handled for measuring club-lengths, let me state that there is nothing in the Rules that prohibits this practice, but don’t do it! It would be considered to be very poor etiquette, as it obviously offers an advantage not intended by the Ruling Bodies to anyone using this type of club for putting. In my opinion, use of a long-handled putter should be prohibited anyway!

In February of this year I wrote about how to correctly measure club-lengths in various different circumstances, illustrated with a series of graphics. Click here to see this blog entry.

Good golfing,

Barry Rhodes

Barry Rhodes is;

• Author of the book, ‘999 Questions on the Rules of Golf’
• Author and narrator of the CD, ’99 Golden Nuggets to Demystifying the Rules of Golf’
• Content provider for the iPhone application, ‘Golf Rules Quiz’


courtgolf said...

I'm a little confused. The rule uses the term "club length" for taking a drop, and that you can use any club to measure the distance - and I understand that in most cases, it is pretty easy to "guess-timate" a one or two club distance in which to take the drop.

But in a tournament or other competitive situation, how is it you don't have to measure the space allowed for the drop when the rule says "club length" ? I'm not following how you reached your conclusion that estimating is alright by the rules.

Barry Rhodes said...


As I said in my blog, there is nothing in the Rules stipulating that a player has to measure club-lengths when taking relief. It is perfectly acceptable to estimate the distance of one or two club-lengths in any circumstance. However, if there is any doubt that the player's ball hit the ground outside of the estimated distance then a Rules Official, fellow competitor or opponent may require the drop to be made again. This is why it is good practice to actually measure out the distance using a club (without the head cover) when dropping at the limit of the permitted distance.


courtgolf said...

Ah - ok - I'm with you now. I was having trouble separating "club length" from "using a club to measure length".

JunkmanJim said...

"It would be considered to be very poor etiquette, as it obviously offers an advantage not intended by the Ruling Body.....a long-handled putter should be prohibited anyway!"
It seems to me that the rules of golf are quite specific without special pleading as to intent of the ruling body or the individuals personal opinion of a club ruled legal. If a golfer is a little person and uses short clubs, the rules make no accommodation for this disadvantage. I am unaware that there is a special appeal to fairness in the rules of golf. I might feel that someone has gained advantage by using a long putter especially as I use a very short putter but my quarrel is with the ruling body not the golfer. I do not feel a player has displayed poor etiquette by using the rules to their full advantage.
Best regards, Jim

Barry Rhodes said...

Junkman Jim,

Thanks for your comment. I respect your opinion but am a believer in the spirit of laws (Rules) as well as the letter. I am not aware of any Tour Pro that has used a long-handled putter to measure club-lengths and would expect them to receive criticism from other players should they do so.

I wonder how you would react if an opponent chose to carry a long-handled putter in their bag purely to gain advantage in taking relief under the Rules. In other words, they also carried a traditional putter for putting with.

You are probably aware that the Ruling Bodies make revisions to the Rules of Golf every four years and I would not be surprised if this was an area that received clarification in the January 2012 publication.


JunkmanJim said...


The USGA refers to the spirit of the game as abiding by the rules among other things. There is no reference in the section on etiquette as to rule interpretation. The assumption is that all the rules are to be followed. Michelle Wie forgets to sign her card, walks outside the scoring area then tries to come back in but is disqualified. There is no spirit of intent considered here, four days of great play thrown away for a clerical error where all the facts are known. The rules are obviously meant to be strictly followed. There are no references that I can find in the rules for divining the intent of these rules for fairness.

Long putters have been in use well before 1990 and the rules have not been changed. I find no maximum length set for a putter to be ridiculous but long putters comply with the rules. The Ruling Bodies have had ample opportunity to make these changes but have not. I think a pro should carry a 12 foot putter for gaining relief would facilitate a rule change.

Until that time, are we to play by the rules as we think they should be or hope they will be?

Is this a unique problem or are there other situations in the rules of golf where following the rules as written is frowned upon as not being within the spirit of the rules? I do not want to confuse this with doing something unsportsmanlike within the rules simply to unnerve an opponent. Is there a similar situation where taking maximum relief within the rules is considered poor etiquette?

I appreciate and enjoy your discussion on the rules so please don't misconstrue my comments as a personal attack. The game of golf is special to me and I am trying to learn and understand the rules better. I have learned quite a bit just making this response and my point of view is subject to being changed by a good argument.

You asked about how I would feel if a player carried a long putter for the sole purpose of gaining relief. I would first feel sympathy for him if he plays so bad that he needs to sacrifice a club just to get 4 or 5 inches more relief :) If it was a tremendous advantage, I would probably get a club to defend myself and complain how the rules need to be changed. As long as everyone follows the same rules, the game is fair as far as I am concerned. I would not appeal to his better nature to do something that is not a rule.

The pros have some hurt feelings but the putter arms race hasn't happened on the pro tour and there doesn't seem to be a statistical advantage that I can find associated with using a longer putter. I suspect if nothing is clarified in the rules in 2012, then some pro will lay down his long putter for relief at some point, bound to happen.


Jana Mapps said...

Nice one, I really appreciate your blog.Now I know that in terms of club length their is no rules regarding that matter. Because all I know is that in playing golf the playing area must perfectly setup and strictly manage the club length. That's why thanks for your post now I got a little knowledge about this matter.

Barry Rhodes said...


I can't fault your argument and would not want to as, like you, I have total respect for the Rules of Golf and how they have evolved. You will have noted in my earlier response that my personal philosophy is that the spirit of laws should be adhered to, not just the Rules of Golf. It is still my belief that whether you play the game for fun, or for a living, you should not use a long-handled putter for measuring club-lengths and I will continue to recommend that others do not do so.


Jon W. from Wichita KS said...

I know that I'm a wee bit of a late-comer to this discussion (just found it). I saw the statement about not seeing or knowing of a tour pro using their long putter for measuring relief. I, as I'm sure that others can also now confirm that this has indeed happened on more than several occasions, but most notably was Keegan Bradley at the 2012 PGA Championship as well as Bernhardt Langer during a 2012 Champions Tour major event and that from the middle of the fairway while in contention late in the final round! Neither of these seemed hesitant to take advantage of their ginormously longer shafted clubs to gain an additional advantage over the majority of their fellow competitors! I personally couldn't give hoot if someone with palsy can use one of these 'crutches' for their obvious disability, but its just downright unsporting to use a tent pole to measure relief. I rarely use all of my 14 clubs and have toyed with the idea of crafting a putter with a telescoping shaft that'd extend way beyond the longest 60" putter I've seen, say maybe 100" and jus use it for relief while carrying my standard 35" putter and not exceed the 14 club max. I'm quite sure that it'd draw many comments, although I'd bet the 'crutch' users would be keeping mum!

Barry Rhodes said...


I certainly agree with the sentiments of your comments. Don't spend too much money on that extendible putter though, as it would breach this restriction in Appendix ll, Design of Clubs;

All parts of the club must be fixed so that the club is one unit, and it must have no external attachments.