Tuesday, 16 February 2016


Justin Thomas broke a club in the normal course of play
There were two Rules situations relating to clubs at the Waste Management Phoenix Open at TPC Scottsdale, Arizona, in the first week of February.

The first concerned Keegan Bradley, who was penalised two strokes for starting his round with 15 clubs in his bag. Fortunately, either he or his caddie realised that he was carrying fifteen clubs before teeing off on the 2nd hole, otherwise the penalty would have been four strokes, as per the penalty statement under Rule 4-4. I agree with self-confessed Rules geek and USGA competion committee member, Missy Jones, who made this comment on Twitter, “Having a Rules official as a starter would cut down on players starting with more than 14 clubs.”

The second situation concerned Justin Thomas, who following a wayward drive, managed to clatter his 8-iron against a tree while trying to get his ball back onto the fairway. In this situation, because Justin damaged his club in the normal course of play he had three options under Rule 4-3;

(i)    use the club in its damaged state for the remainder of the stipulated round; or
(ii)    without unduly delaying play, repair it or have it repaired; or
(iii)    as an additional option available only if the club is unfit for play, replace the damaged club with any club. The replacement of a club must not unduly delay play (Rule 6-7) and must not be made by borrowing any club selected for play by any other person playing on the course or by assembling components carried by or for the player during the stipulated round.
Note that clubs that are damaged other than in the normal course of play (e.g. “slammed” into a golf bag, bent in frustration, hit against a tee-marker), may not subsequently be used or replaced during the round, Rule 4-3b.

Other Rules relating to clubs are;

  • Clubs must conform to the provisions, specifications and interpretations set forth in Appendix II, e.g. chippers must only have one striking face, Decision 4-1/3. 
  • A player may make adjustments to a conforming club before starting a stipulated round, but not during the round, Rule 4-2a. 
  • Foreign material (e.g. chalk or saliva) must not be applied to the club face for the purpose of influencing the movement of the ball, Rule 4-2b. 
  • There is no penalty for carrying another player’s club inadvertently put into the wrong bag during a round, unless it is used, in which case a penalty of two strokes applies and the club must not be used again by that player, Decision 4-4a/5. 
  • Partners may share clubs, provided that the total number of clubs carried by the partners so sharing does not exceed fourteen, Rule 4-4b. 
  • There is no penalty for carrying another player’s club that has been found on the course, but it must not be used, Decision 4-4a/8. 
  • Players may not borrow a club selected for play by any other person on the course, Decision 4-4a/12, but they may practice with another player’s club (e.g. putter) where the Rules permit practice during a round, Decision 4-4a/13.
Good golfing,


The above content is strictly copyright to Barry Rhodes © 2016 and may not be copied without permission.

Tuesday, 2 February 2016

Traditional Use of Equipment

I understand that Jason Duffner, who was the play-off winner of last week’s CareerBuilder Challenge at La Quinta, California, was observed making practice swings holding his golf glove underneath his armpit. How does this compare with these three similar situations? 
  1. DJ Points, was penalised for holding a spongy green ball under his arm to make practice swings while waiting to play on a tee box? 
  2. Jeff Overton, was penalised for using alignment rods to practice putting on the 10th tee while waiting for a back-up of players to clear, resulting from both the 1st and 10th having been used as starting holes following a weather-suspended round.
  3.  Julie Inkster, was penalised for making practice swings with a weighted donut device attached to one of her clubs in similar circumstances to Jeff Overton above.
I am using Decision 14-3/11 as a reference to illustrate why Jason Duffner did not breach Rule 14-3, whereas, DJ Points, Jeff Overton and Julie Inkster did, and were penalised for their breaches; 
Q. Is a plumb-line, i.e. a weight suspended on a string, an artificial device within the meaning of the term in Rule 14-3?
A. Yes. If a player uses such a device to assist him in his play, he is in breach of Rule 14-3.
Now we have all seen players use their putter as a plumb-line, e.g. Ricky Fowler in the photo above; this is permitted, because they are using their equipment in a traditionally accepted manner, but if they use anything that was originally designed as a plumb-line they are in breach of Rule 14-3, as in the Decision above. So Jason Duffner was permitted to use a glove under his arm while making practice swings, because the glove was part of his equipment and was obviously not designed as a swing aid.

Expanding on this difference, a player is permitted to use their equipment (e.g. ball, glove, club or towel) in an abnormal manner for practice swings and practice strokes that are permitted by Rule 7-2, but not for making strokes that count in their score. This permission also includes; swinging two clubs together; holding a pencil at arms-length to gauge distance (Decision 14-3/2); using binoculars to find and identify a ball (Decision 14-3/3); referring to a strokesaver or other booklet to determine distances (Decision 14-3/5); holding a ball against the grip of the club (Decision 14-3/6.5); and placing a club on the ground to align the feet and removing it before making a stroke (Decision 8-2a/1).

However, a player may not use any artificial device that was originally designed to assist golfers in making a stroke, or in their play. This includes, spongy balls, alignment rods and weighted donuts, as in the three penalty situations referred to above.

There is a further complication when we consider what a player may use to aid them stretching during a round. Decision 14-3/10.5 is relevant;

Q. Rule 14-3a prohibits a player, during a stipulated round, from using any artificial device or unusual equipment, or using any equipment in an abnormal manner, that "might assist him in making a stroke or in his play." Would the use of a stretching device during a stipulated round be a breach of Rule 14-3?

A. During a stipulated round, it is permissible to use a device designed for stretching unless the device is designed specifically to be used in a golf swing and is used during a golf swing (see Decision 14-3/10). For example, the following stretching devices may be used:
Items designed specifically for golf but not used in a golf swing (e.g., a bar to place across the shoulders);
Items designed for general stretching (e.g., rubber tubing); and
Items not originally designed for stretching (e.g., a section of pipe). (Revised)
The salient point here is that during a round players may not use commercial stretching devices that were designed to assist with a golf swing, but they can uses items designed for general stretching purposes. This is a fine distinction. If you are having trouble interpreting the difference, my advice is not to use anything other than a club across your shoulders to stretch with.

(Note: This paragraph was edited 3rd February 2016 and again on 24th November 2016.) I can confirm that any artificial device that is not a club (e.g. a swing trainer or alignment rods) may be carried during competition; a breach of Rule 14-3 only occurs if one is used during a stipulated round. 

Finally, a reminder that following an amendment effective 1st January 2016, the penalty for a player’s first breach of Rule 14-3 (Artificial Devices, Unusual Equipment and Abnormal Use of Equipment) during a round has been reduced from disqualification to loss of hole in match play, or two strokes in stroke play. The penalty for any subsequent breach of Rule 14-3 remains as disqualification. In the event of a breach between the play of two holes, the penalty applies to the next hole.

Good golfing,


My new eBook, '999 More Questions on the Rules of Golf - 2016' is now finished and will soon be ready for publication. For those that wish to receive an early copy email me at ( rules at barry rhodes dot com ) and I will send you a .pdf file for computers. The .mobi file (Kindle) for eReaders, smart phones and tablets will be ready soon and I will send it on. The eBook price is the same as for my original 999 Questions eBook, i.e. US$9.99, Eu€8.99, St£7.79. I will give you my PayPal account details when you email me with your order. The format of 111 sections of 9 questions on different Rules subjects is completely different from my first eBook.

The above content is strictly copyright to Barry Rhodes ©2016 and may not be copied without permission.