Rulings relating to golf equipment are few on Tour but there have been a couple of cases in recent months.
During the final round of the Thailand Classic at Black Mountain Golf Club, Scott Hend played an excellent escape shot from behind a tree but snapped his club in the process. As the club had been damaged in the normal course of play the player was permitted to replace the broken club. This is as per Rule 4-3 which allows a club which is no longer fit for play to be replaced, providing the player does not unduly delay play in obtaining a replacement and providing he does not replace the club by borrowing a club selected for play by any other person playing on the course or by assembling components carried by or for the player during the round.
Under the Rules of Golf, a club is considered unfit for play if it is substantially damaged, e.g. the shaft is dented or significantly bent, the clubhead becomes loose or detached, or the grip becomes loose.
The player does not need to replace the broken club with the same type of club, e.g. a broken 9 iron could be replaced with a 3 wood, providing it is a conforming club.
Should Hend’s club have been damaged but still fit for play he would have had the option of using the club in its damaged state for the remainder of the round, irrespective of whether the club was still conforming. Alternatively he could have repaired it or have it repaired, provided this did not unduly delay play.
If, however, a player damages a club and renders it non-conforming other than in the normal course of play, i.e. though acts of abuse such as throwing it, slamming it into a golf bag, or intentionally striking something (like the ground or a tree) other than during a stroke or practice swing, then the club may not be subsequently used or replaced during the round. However, if the player started the round with fewer than 14 clubs, then he would be entitled to add another club for whatever reason under Rule 4-4a (see Decision 4-3/8).
Matt Every was not so lucky after he was disqualified during the second round of the Sony Open in Hawaii for using a non-conforming club which had been damaged during a previous round.
Every had bent the shaft of his 4-iron during the first round of the tournament and unfortunately he not only forgot to take the club out of his bag prior to starting his second round, but he proceeded to use the club for his second shot at the 18th hole (his 9th hole of the day). Every realised himself that he may have breached a Rule and spoke to PGA Tour referee, John Mutch who confirmed to Every that the penalty for using a non-conforming club was disqualification, under Rule 4-1a. If Every had not used the club but just carried it in his bag, the penalty would have been two strokes for each hole that he had carried the club, up to a maximum of four strokes (Rule 4-1a).
The Rules state that “The shaft must be straight from the top of the grip to a point not more than 5 inches above the sole (i.e. the neck). Every’s club was non-conforming as there was a substantial bend around 10 inches up from the neck.
The crucial difference between the Matt Every and the Scott Hend rulings is that in Every’s case the club in question was already non-conforming when he started his round.
Bernard Langer had some club trouble of his own during the first round of the Champions Tour, Mitsubishi Electric Championship at Hualalai in January. He hit his second shot at the par five seventh hole to the right of the green into an area of lava rocks. Unfortunately for Langer he took several more strokes to escape from the lava rock, including a miss and a double hit, eventually two putting the from 50 feet for a quintuple bogey 10.
As per the definition of ‘stroke’ in the Rules of Golf, a stroke is the forward movement of the club made with the intention of striking at and moving the ball. Therefore if a player intends to strike the ball, but misses it, the stroke still counts in the score for the hole.
Langer immediately called the double hit on himself which resulted in him incurring a one-stroke penalty. Rule 14-4 states that if a player’s club strikes the ball more than once during the course of a stroke, the player must count the stroke and add one penalty stroke.
Langer recovered well and went on to score a level par 72 for the round. Watch the incident here.