Purpose: Rule 4 covers the equipment that players may use during a round. Based on the principle that golf is a challenging game in which success should depend on the player’s judgment, skills and abilities, the player:
Must use conforming clubs and balls,
Is limited to no more than 14 clubs and normally must not replace damaged or lost clubs, and
Is restricted in the use of other equipment that gives artificial help to his or her play.
The Player’s Equipment
For detailed requirements for clubs, balls and other equipment and the process for consultation and submission of equipment for conformity review, see the Equipment Rules.
Clubs Allowed in Making a Stroke
(1) Conforming Clubs. In making a stroke, a player must use a club that conforms to the requirements in the Equipment Rules:
A club used to make a stroke must conform not only when the club is new, but also when it has been deliberately or accidentally changed in any way.
But if the performance characteristics of a conforming club change because of wear through normal use, it is still a conforming club.
“Performance characteristics” means any part of the club that affects how it performs in making a stroke, such as its grip, shaft, clubhead or lie or loft (including lie or loft of an adjustable club).(2) Use or Repair of Club Damaged During Round. If a conforming club is damaged during a round or while play is stopped under Rule 5.7a, the player normally must not replace it with another club. (For a limited exception when the player did not cause the damage, see Rule 4.1b(3)).But no matter what the nature or cause of the damage, the damaged club is treated as conforming for the rest of the round (but not during a play-off in stroke play, which is a new round).For the rest of the round, the player may:
Continue to make strokes with the damaged club, or
Have the club repaired by restoring it as nearly as possible to its condition before the damage happened during the round or while play was stopped, while still using the original grip, shaft and clubhead. But in doing so:
The player must not unreasonably delay play (see Rule 5.6a), and
Any damage that existed before the round must not be repaired.
“Damaged during a round” means when the club’s performance characteristics are changed because of any act during the round (including while play is stopped under Rule 5.7a), whether:
By the player (such as making a stroke or practice swing with the club, putting it in or taking it out of a golf bag, dropping or leaning on it, or throwing or abusing it), or
By any other person, outside influence or natural forces.
But a club is not “damaged during a round” if its performance characteristics are deliberately changed by the player during the round, as covered by Rule 4.1a(3).(3) Deliberately Changing Club’s Performance Characteristics During Round. A player must not make a stroke with a club whose performance characteristics he or she deliberately changed during the round (including while play is stopped under Rule 5.7a):
By using an adjustable feature or physically changing the club (except when allowed to repair damage under Rule 4.1a(2)), or
By applying any substance to the clubhead (other than in cleaning it) to affect how it performs in making a stroke.
Exception – Adjustable Club Restored to Original Position: If a club’s performance characteristics were changed by using an adjustable feature and, before the club is used to make a stroke, the club is restored as nearly as possible to its original position by adjusting the feature back to where it was, there is no penalty and the club may be used to make a stroke.[Clarification available: Removing a Non-Permissible External Attachment]Penalty for Making Stroke in Breach of Rule 4.1a: Disqualification.
There is no penalty under this Rule for merely having (but not making a stroke with) a non-conforming club or a club whose performance characteristics were deliberately changed during the round.
But such a club still counts towards the 14-club limit in Rule 4.1b(1).
Limit of 14 Clubs; Sharing, Adding or Replacing Clubs During Round
(1) Limit of 14 Clubs. A player must not:
Start a round with more than 14 clubs, or
Have more than 14 clubs during the round.
If the player starts a round with fewer than 14 clubs, he or she may add clubs during the round up to the 14-club limit (see Rule 4.1b(4) for restrictions in doing this).When the player becomes aware that he or she is in breach of this Rule by having more than 14 clubs, the player must immediately take the excess club or clubs out of play, using the procedure in Rule 4.1c(1):
If the player started with more than 14 clubs, he or she may choose which club or clubs will be taken out of play.
If the player added excess clubs during the round, those added clubs are the ones that must be taken out of play.
After a player’s round has started, if the player picks up another player’s club that was left behind, or a club is mistakenly put in the player’s bag without his or her knowledge, the club is not treated as one of the player’s clubs for purposes of the 14-club limit (but it must not be used).(2) No Sharing of Clubs. A player is limited to those clubs he or she started with or added as allowed in (1):
The player must not make a stroke with a club being used by anyone else who is playing on the course (even if the other player is playing in a different group or competition).
When the player becomes aware that he or she has breached this Rule by making a stroke with another player’s club, the player must immediately take that club out of play, using the procedure in Rule 4.1c(1).
See Rules 22.5 and 23.7(limited exception in partner forms of play allowing partners to share clubs if they have no more than 14 clubs between them).(3) No Replacing Lost or Damaged Clubs. If a player started with 14 clubs or added clubs up to the limit of 14 and then loses or damages a club during the round or while play is stopped under Rule 5.7a, the player must not replace it with another club.Exception – Replacing Damaged Club When Player Did Not Cause Damage: If a player’s club is damaged during the round (including while play is stopped) (see Rule 4.1a(2)) by an outside influence or natural forces or by any person other than the player or his or her caddie:
The player may replace the damaged club with any club under Rule 4.1b(4).
But when the player does so, the player must immediately take the damaged club out of play, using the procedure in Rule 4.1c(1).
Add or borrow any club from anyone else who is playing on the course (even if the other player is playing in a different group or competition), or
Build a club from parts carried by anyone for the player during the round.
Penalty for Breach of Rule 4.1b: The penalty applies based on when the player becomes aware of the breach:
Player Becomes Aware of Breach While Playing the Hole. The penalty is applied at the end of the hole being played. In match play, the player must complete the hole, apply the result of that hole to the match score and then apply the penalty to adjust the match score.
Player Becomes Aware of Breach Between Two Holes. The penalty is applied as of the end of the hole just completed, not the next hole.
Penalty in Match Play – Match Score Revised by Deducting Hole, Maximum of Two Holes:
This is a match adjustment penalty – it is not the same as a loss of hole penalty.
At the end of the hole being played or just completed, the match score is revised by deducting one hole for each hole where a breach happened, with a maximum deduction of two holes in the round.
For example, if a player who started with 15 clubs becomes aware of the breach while playing the 3rd hole and then wins that hole to go three up in the match, the maximum adjustment of two holes applies and the player would now be one up in the match.
Penalty in Stroke Play –Two Penalty Strokes, Maximum of Four Strokes: The player gets thegeneral penalty(two penalty strokes) for each hole where a breach happened, with a maximum of four penalty strokes in the round (adding two penalty strokes at each of the first two holes where a breach happened).
Procedure for Taking Clubs Out of Play
(1) During Round. When a player becomes aware during a round that he or she is in breach of Rule 4.1b(1), (2) or (3) for having more than 14 clubs or for making a stroke with another player’s club, the player must immediately take an action that clearly indicates each club that is being taken out of play.This may be done either by:
Declaring this to the opponent in match play or the marker or another player in the group in stroke play, or
Taking some other clear action (such as turning the club upside down in the bag, placing it on the floor of the golf cart or giving the club to another person).
The player must not make a stroke for the rest of the round with any club taken out of play.If a club taken out of play is another player’s club, that other player may continue to use the club.Penalty for Breach of Rule 4.1c(1): Disqualification.(2) Before Round. If a player becomes aware shortly before starting a round that he or she accidentally has more than 14 clubs, the player should try to leave the excess club or clubs behind.But as an option without penalty:
The player may take any such excess clubs out of play before the start of the round, using the procedure in (1), and
The excess clubs may be kept by the player (but must not be used) during the round, and they do not count towards the 14-club limit.
(1) Conforming Ball Must Be Played. In making each stroke, a player must use a ball that conforms to the requirements in the Equipment Rules.A player may get a conforming ball to play from anyone else, including another player on the course.(2) Deliberately Altered Ball Must Not Be Played. A player must not make a stroke at a ball whose performance characteristics have been deliberately altered, such as by scuffing or heating the ball or by applying any substance (other than in cleaning it).Penalty for Making Stroke in Breach of Rule 4.2a: Disqualification.
Ball Breaks into Pieces While Playing Hole
If a player’s ball breaks into pieces after a stroke, there is no penalty and the stroke does not count.The player must play another ball from where that stroke was made (see Rule 14.6).Penalty for Playing Ball from a Wrong Place in Breach of Rule 4.2b: General Penalty under Rule 14.7a.
Ball Becomes Cut or Cracked While Playing Hole
(1) Lifting Ball to See If Cut or Cracked. If a player reasonably believes that his or her ball has been cut or cracked while playing a hole:
The player may lift the ball to look at it, but:
The spot of the ball must first be marked, and the ball must not be cleaned (except on the putting green) (see Rule 14.1).
If the player lifts the ball without having this reasonable belief (except on the putting green where the player may lift under Rule 13.1b), fails to mark the spot of the ball before lifting it or cleans it when not allowed, the player gets one penalty stroke.If multiple Rule breaches with a one-stroke penalty result from a single act or related acts, see Rule 1.3c(4).(2) When Another Ball May Be Substituted. The player may only substitute another ball if it can be clearly seen that the original ball is cut or cracked and this damage happened during the hole being played – but not if it is only scratched or scraped or its paint is only damaged or discoloured.
If the original ball is cut or cracked, the player must replace either another ball or the original ball on the original spot (see Rule 14.2).
If the original ball is not cut or cracked, the player must replace it on its original spot (see Rule 14.2).
Nothing in this Rule prohibits a player from substituting another ball under any other Rule or changing balls between two holes.Penalty for Playing Incorrectly Substituted Ball or Playing Ball from a Wrong Place in Breach of Rule 4.2c: General Penalty under Rule 6.3b or 14.7a.If multiple Rule breaches result from a single act or related acts, see Rule 1.3c(4).
Use of Equipment
Rule 4.3 applies to all types of equipment that a player might use during a round, except that the requirement to play with conforming clubs and balls is covered by Rules 4.1 and 4.2, not by this Rule.This Rule only concerns how equipment is used. It does not limit the equipment that a player may have with him or her during a round.
Allowed and Prohibited Uses of Equipment
A player may use equipment to help his or her play during a round, except that a player must not create a potential advantage by:
Using equipment (other than a club or a ball) that artificially eliminates or reduces the need for a skill or judgment that is essential to the challenge of the game, or
Using equipment (including a club or a ball) in an abnormal way in making a stroke. “Abnormal way” means a way that is fundamentally different than its intended use and is not normally recognized as part of playing the game.
This Rule does not affect the application of any other Rule that limits actions a player is allowed to take with a club, ball or other equipment (such as setting down a club or other object to help the player in lining up, see Rule 10.2b(3)).Common examples of uses of equipment that are allowed and not allowed during a player’s round under this Rule are:(1) Distance and Directional Information.
Getting information on distance or direction (such as from a distance-measuring device or compass).
Measuring elevation changes, or
Interpreting distance or directional information (such as using a device to get a recommended line of play or club selection based on the location of the player’s ball).
See Committee Procedures, Section 8; Model Local Rule G-5 (the Committee may adopt a Local Rule prohibiting the use of distance-measuring devices).(2) Information on Wind and Other Weather Conditions.
Getting any type of weather information (including wind speed) that is available from weather forecasts, or
Measuring temperature and humidity at the course.
Measuring wind speed at the course, or
Using an artificial object to get other wind-related information (such as using powder to assess wind direction).
(3) Information Gathered Before or During Round.
Using information that was gathered before the round (such as playing information from previous rounds, swing tips or club recommendations), or
Recording (for use after the round) playing or physiological information from the round (such as club distance, playing statistics or heart rate).
Processing or interpreting playing information from the round (such as club recommendations based on current round distances), or
Using any physiological information recorded during the round.
(4) Audio and Video.
Listening to audio or watching video on matters unrelated to the competition being played (such as a news report or background music).
But in doing so, consideration should be shown to others (see Rule 1.2).
Listening to music or other audio to eliminate distractions or to help with swing tempo, or
Viewing video showing play of the player or other players during the competition that helps the player in choosing a club, making a stroke, or deciding how to play during the round.
See Committee Procedures, Section 8; Model Local Rule G-8 (the Committee may adopt a Local Rule prohibiting or restricting the use of audio and video devices during a round).(5) Gloves and Gripping Agents.
Using a plain glove that meets the requirements in the Equipment Rules,
Using resin, powders and other moisturizing or drying agents, or
Wrapping a towel or handkerchief around the grip.
Using a glove that does not meet the requirements in the Equipment Rules, or
Using other equipment that gives an unfair advantage with hand position or grip pressure.
(6) Stretching Devices and Training or Swing Aids.
Using any equipment for general stretching (other than in making a practice swing), whether the equipment is designed for stretching, for use in golf (such as an alignment rod placed across the shoulders) or for any purpose unrelated to golf (such as rubber tubing or a section of pipe).
Using any type of golf training or swing aid (such as an alignment rod or a weighted headcover or “donut”) or a non-conforming club to make a practice swing or in any other way that creates a potential advantage by helping the player in preparing for or making a stroke (such as help with swing plane, grip, alignment, ball position or posture).
(1) Medical Exception. A player is not in breach of Rule 4.3 if he or she uses equipment to help with a medical condition, so long as:
The player has a medical reason to use the equipment, and
The Committee decides that its use does not give the player any unfair advantage over other players.
(2) Tape or Similar Coverings. A player may use adhesive tape or a similar covering for any medical reason (such as to prevent an injury or help with an existing injury), but the tape or covering must not:
Be applied excessively, or
Help the player more than is necessary for the medical reason (for example, it must not immobilize a joint to help the player swing the club).
A player who is uncertain about where or how tape or similar coverings may be applied should ask the Committee for a ruling.Penalty for Breach of Rule 4.3:
Penalty for first breach from single act or related acts: General Penalty.
Penalty for second breach unrelated to first breach: Disqualification. This penalty applies even if the nature of the breach was entirely different than the breach resulting in the first penalty.