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.


Unknown said...

Always thought it rather crazy these days that you should be limited to 14 clubs understand there should be a limit otherwise poor caddies.... however 16 clubs seems a more reasonable number...

Barry Rhodes said...


I am not going to offer an opinion, but I can tell you that there is a bigger lobby for the number of clubs permitted to be carried to be reduced than for that number to be increased.


Anonymous said...


I think this Rule 4-3a(i) is rather odd. Even if the club was significantly bent or broken in the normal course of use, I don't think it shouldn't be permitted to use because it's simply not a club anymore. It says that a club must be composed of a shaft and a head and the shaft must be in straight form. Therefore, a club that is bent or broken is not a club. You can't make a stroke if you're not using a club. Everytime you try to hit a ball with it, it's a breach of 18-2 and should be replaced with a penalty.

Barry Rhodes said...


I understand the point that you are making, but do not think that it is necessary to change the Rule. A player whose club is significantly bent or broken in the normal course of play is much more likely to repair or replace it, as is permitted, rather than carry on playing with it, which has to be more difficult to use. However, a player whos grip has become loose on their favourite putter may prefer to continue play with the club in its damaged state than replace it. If the Rule was rewritten to take into account both of these circumstances it would become more complicated and more unwieldy.


Donnie D. Simmons said...

Helpful, really helpful. Most of the golfer doesn't know the golf rules properly and I think the rules of golf is really hard to remember.
Thanks for sharing this helpful article with us.