Tuesday, 20 January 2015

Non-Conforming Club - Matt Every

Getty Images; D.J. Piehowski/PGA TOUR
There was an unusual disqualification at the Sony Open in Hawaii last Friday and to the credit of the player involved, it was he who drew attention to his transgression. Matt Every, last year’s winner of the Arnold Palmer Invitational PGA Tour event, was disqualified for a breach of Rule 4-1, because he used a club that he had damaged other than in the normal course of play, which made it non-conforming. The circumstance was that Every had substantially bent his 4-iron, “out of frustration”, on the 18th hole of his opening round on Thursday. The following report of Every’s explanation, as to how the club remained in his bag on the second day of the event, is taken from Stephanie Wei’s excellent ‘Wei Under Par’ blog;
“There’s no good a bent club can do in my bag, obviously, so I was planning to throw it away (after the first round),” said Every. “Then on the range this morning, I was using it as an alignment stick because it’s only bent on the bottom and you can’t really tell.”

Once again, Every wanted to throw it away, but instead, he ended up putting it upside-down in his bag, so you could only see the butt of the grip.

“At some point between then and my 9th hole (18) today, it got turned back to normal,” he said. “I was looking down and just grabbed the 4-iron out of the bag. It wasn’t bent bad, just at the bottom there was a curve. If you were setting it up to hit a shot, you wouldn’t be able to tell.

“I was giving the club back to (my caddie) Derek (Mason) and my hands went to the middle of the club and I could tell it was bent. I was like, ‘Oh, shoot.’ I knew a new 4-iron didn’t get put in the bag overnight.”
Every admitted that he was familiar with the Rule and knew right away that it was a breach. He then called over an official who confirmed that he was indeed disqualified. What surprises me about this conversation is that another report on the incident quotes PGA Rules official, John Mutch as saying;
“He asked for a second opinion on the bend. The bend in this club was about 10 inches up from the neck. It was substantial.”
So, Every was familiar with the Rule, knew that he had breached it, asked an official to confirm the penalty, but he still sought a second opinion!

Had Every taken the club out of his bag after finishing his round on Thursday he would not have incurred any penalty. However, as it was a stroke play competition, as soon as he started his round the following day with the non-conforming (bent) club he was subject to a penalty of two strokes for each hole at which any breach occurred, with a maximum penalty per round of four strokes; but because he used the club in its damaged state on his 9th hole the penalty incurred increased to disqualification.

To summarise;
  • It is Rule 4 that deals with clubs.
  • A club that has a significant bend in its shaft is non-conforming.
  • If the club is damaged during the normal course of play it may be used, repaired or replaced during the round, but not otherwise. (Note that Decision 4-3/1 * clarifies what is meant by normal course of play.)
  • A player incurs a penalty for starting a round with a non-conforming club.
  • A player is disqualified for using a non-conforming club during a round.
Good golfing,

 

* I strongly recommend that all golfers with an interest in the Rules should have easy access to the R&A’s 'Decisions on the Rules of Golf 2014-2015'. If you do not want it for yourself you should consider purchasing it for your Club or Society. If you are going to purchase this book, or anything else from Amazon, please use this link, as I will then make a few cents affiliate commission, which helps me to meet my costs.

The above content is strictly copyright to Barry Rhodes © 2015 and may not be copied without permission.

14 comments:

mike said...

Hi Barry, just to clarify then, from your summary points, if a club is damaged through normal play then you can continue to use it during that round (point 3) -However if you start a round with a non conforming club then you would be disqualified if you used it (point 5) and penalised 2 stroke for the first 2 holes that you were carrying it (point 4). You would not be disqualified or penalised for using a non conforming club if the damage occurred under normal use during your round and you continued to use it in that round.

Barry Rhodes said...

Mike,

Your summary is correct, but note that regarding your last point the player only avoids incurring a penalty if the club was rendered non-conforming by damage incurred during the round in the normal course of play.

Barry

Anonymous said...

Tks Barry, if a player has a bent club in his bag, which got bent a few months ago in normal course of play, it is a breech of the rules and penalised as above correct?

Barry Rhodes said...

Anonymous,

Yes, as I said in my summary; "A player incurs a penalty for starting a round with a non-conforming club. A club that has a bent shaft is non-conforming.

Barry

Anonymous said...

Not a blog comment but a question regarding your response to question # 990 in your Updated Questions on the Rules of Golf. Why doesn't Jonjo also incur a penalty of two strokes. Decision 30/2.5 involves match play and both players receive a penalty in that scenario. Jonjo should be penalized because he also touched his line of putt (Rule 16-1a). I am studying for the USGA Rules Workshop and I am confused regarding your response to question 990. Would appreciate your help.

george

Barry Rhodes said...

Matt,

Please email me direct on off-topic subjects (rules at barry rhodes dot com).

You are obviously looking at a version of my eBook that pre-dates the Amendments to the Decisions on the Rules of Golf, which became effective January 2014. Most of of the changes required were minor clarifications, but Q.815, Q.990 and Q.995 required more significant changes.

The revised answer to Q.990 is; D) Both Jonjo and Christie incur a penalty of two strokes.

Barry

Simon said...

Barry,
There has been a bit of discussion recently around the incident of if you pick up an extra club (left behind by the group in front of you) and put it in your bag to return. I have been told that "declaring it out of play" isn't actually correct and in the rules you are better leaving the club to avoid a breach.

Barry Rhodes said...

Simon,

The information you were given was wrong. Decision 4-4a/8 clarifies;

Q. A player carrying 14 clubs found another player's club on the course. He picked up the lost club, put it in his bag but did not use it, and handed it in at the pro shop when the round was completed. Was the player in breach of Rule 4-4a for carrying 15 clubs?
A. No.


However, don't forget to hand the club in at the end of the round, as you would be penalised if you started your next round carrying 15 clubs.

Barry

JOHN said...

I am a forty year member of Mount Osmond Golf Club, South Australia. Unfortuneately breach of Rule 33-1 is rife within our club despite complaints. We have recently had the club Mens captain, Board members and shamefully accredited referees breaching this rule frequently, with the endorsement of the Pro shop (and Management).Recently myself and an acquaintance made it clear to our match play opponents that they could not play both competitions simultaneously.Both opponents progressed to the next match play round and played in both competitions??? Some years ago I formally complained about this practice and was ostracised, being informed in writing that my comments were "not in the spirit of the game". Can you comment on this matter.

John ( ex accredited referee)

Barry Rhodes said...

John,

Please read my related blog on this subject, dated 8th August 2013.

http://www.barryrhodes.com/2013/08/playing-four-ball-match-during-singles_8.html

Barry

Anonymous said...

My question relates to a driver head becoming loose. Rule 4-3a indicates that a loose head means a club is "unfit for play" and if this change in the club has occurred during the normal course of play, the club may be used during the remainder of the round, repaired or replaced, providing no undue delay.
However, if it has become loose on the practice fairway without the player realizing, has the club become non-conforming and therefore using it during the subsequent round means a breach?

Barry Rhodes said...

Anonymous,

In my opinion, the club was non-conforming at the start of the round and if it was used a breach had occurred. Part of Appendix ll, 1b states;

b. Adjustability
All clubs may incorporate features for weight adjustment. Other forms of adjustability may also be permitted upon evaluation by the USGA. The following requirements apply to all permissible methods of adjustment:
.... (ii) all adjustable parts are firmly fixed and there is no reasonable likelihood of them working loose during a round.


Barry

Anonymous said...

Thank you for your view on the loose driver head. Would it be fair then to characterize your view as suggesting if a club becomes unfit for play during a round, and the same club unrepaired is still in the bag in a subsequent round then it would be a non-conforming club in the subsequent round hence a R4-1a penalty?
I simply observe that the Rules don't seem to make that explicit connection, even though it seems to be logical.
I also have a recollection of you blogging recently on a loose driver head being fixed by McIlroy in the legitimate situation of the head become loose during a round, but I now cannot find that blog reference.

Barry Rhodes said...

Anonymous,

Yes that would be my opinion. It is logical that whether the driver head became loose on the practice fairway, or during a previous round, when the player started their next round with the unrepaired club in their bag it would be non-conforming.

I do not remember and cannot find any reference to a McIlroy club adjustment incident in any blog of mine.

Barry