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,


 


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16 comments:

Dagbone said...

Barry,

If a player chose to carry (but not use) a non-conforming weighted training club, would that be counted against his 14-club maximum? I believe the answer would be "No", since such a club would more rightly be classed as an "Artificial Device" given its non-conforming status.

Dagbone

Barry Rhodes said...

Dagbone,

Correct. There is no penalty for carrying this artificial device providing it is left in the bag during the round.

Barry

Lawrie said...

Hi Barry.

I am having difficulty reconciling the non-breach of Jason Dufner for the use of his glove under his armpit, with Decision 14/3-12.5.

In that decision a player is penalised for using his water bottle as a level on the greens. What is the difference between the two situations?

The glove and the bottle are both part of the players equipment. Dufner's glove was not designed as a swing-aid, similarly the water bottle was not designed as a level. Is the difference because the use of the glove by Dufner in that manner is considered use of equipment in a traditionally accepted manner?

Lawrie

Barry Rhodes said...

Lawrie,

I accept that it is a fine line, but practising a golf swing with a glove under the arm is using equipment in a 'traditional' manner, whereas using a bottle of water as a level is using equipment in an 'abnormal' manner to assist in the play of the next stroke. Note that a glove may not be held under the arm while making a stroke.

Barry

saritha said...

When play has been suspended, or when waiting for the group ahead to clear the green, is it permitted to place an alignment rod across the shoulders and stretch?

Barry Rhodes said...

Saritha,

In my opinion, no, Although a player may carry an artificial device without penalty, they do incur a penalty, as soon as they use one, even if it is used it in a way that it was not originally designed for. I recommend that players use a club to stretch with!

Barry

Anonymous said...

I believe you are allowed to use any equipment during suspension and won't be a breach of Rule14-3.

Barry Rhodes said...

Anonymous,

Correct. The prohibition against using artificial devices only applies during a stipulated round and not when the stipulated round has been suspended.

Barry

Terry Vogler said...

Is it usga legal to write swing tips on golf glove?

Barry Rhodes said...

Terry,

Yes, there is nothing in the Rules to prevent players from making whatever markings they choose on their equipment, which includes gloves.

Barry

Anonymous said...

Hi Barry,

If a player uses a golf cart on course and it has a flag attached to it at the top, would it be against the rules as the wind direction and even speed of wind can be judged by looking at it?

Barry Rhodes said...

Anonymous,

The answer depends on whether the flag was attached to the cart for the purpose of showing how strong the wind/breeze was blowing and/or its direction. If it was, then this would be in breach of Rule 14-3b, part of which states;

Except as provided in the Rules, during a stipulated round the player must not use any artificial device or unusual equipment, or use any equipment in an unusual manner:…
… b. For the purpose of gauging or measuring distance or conditions that might affect his play.


However, if the flag was attached to this cart, and possibly other carts, perhaps as an advertising promotion, seasonal bunting or for decorative purposes, then it would be difficult to prove that any breach had been incurred.

Barry


Anonymous said...

One of the guys in our group likes to chip one-handed. Since this is usually around the green, he sometimes is holding his putter in his other hand while chipping. The putter is not grounded. He is simply holding it in his other hand rather than setting it on the ground while he chips. Is this permitted or could it perhaps be considered as assisting his balance during the swing?

Barry Rhodes said...

Anonymous,

No penalty is incurred in the circumstance that you describe. My blog dated 17th March 2012 addresses a similar situation.

Barry

Edouard said...

Hi Mr Rhodes

I was reading your article and I want to clarify a point. You may not carry a non-conforming club ( as said in rule 4-1) even if you have less than 14 clubs. It gets confusing because some extra weighted clubs don't breach 4-1 and you may carry them as a 14th club.

Eddy from Canada

Barry Rhodes said...

Eddy,

Thanks for spotting that mistake. I have now removed the sentence from the article, as to try and correct it was only making it more confusing.

Barry