Purpose of Rule: 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
Is restricted in the use of other equipment that gives artificial help to their 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.
Wear Through Normal Use Does Not Change Conformity
Normal use includes strokes, practice strokes and practice swings, as well as acts such as removing a club from and replacing a club into the golf bag. If wear through normal use occurs, the player's club is treated as conforming, and they may continue to use it.Examples of wear through normal use include when:
Material inside a clubhead has broken loose and may rattle during the stroke or when the head is shaken.
A wear mark has formed on the club's grip where the thumbs are placed.
A depression is formed on the club face through repeated use.
The grooves on the club's face are worn.
No Penalty for Stroke with Non-Conforming Club When Stroke Disregarded
If a player makes a stroke with a non-conforming club, the player is not disqualified if the stroke does not count in the player's score.Examples of when the player gets no penalty for making a stroke with a non-conforming club include when:
The player used the club to make a stroke at a provisional ball, but it never became the ball in play.
The player used the club to make a stroke, but the stroke is cancelled, replayed or otherwise did not count.
The player used the club to make a stroke at a second ball under Rule 20.1c(3), but that ball was not the ball that counted for their score.
Meaning of “Repair“
Examples of repair include:
Replacing lead tape that fell off during a stroke. Given the nature of lead tape, if the lead tape will not remain on the club in the same location, new tape may be used.
Tightening clubs with adjustable mechanisms that come loose during the round, but not adjusting the club to a different setting.
How to Apply Adjustment Penalty Once Any Player Starts Hole During Match
If any player in a match has started play of a hole when a breach of Rule 4.1b is discovered, the match adjustment penalty is applied at the end of that hole. If the player in breach has not started that hole, they are between holes and are not in breach on the next hole.For example, after completing the first hole, the player tees off on the second hole. Before the opponent tees off, the opponent becomes aware that they are carrying 15 clubs in breach of Rule 4.1b(1). Since the opponent has not started the second hole, the match score is only adjusted by one hole in the player's favour, but the match score is not revised until the second hole is completed since the second hole started when the player teed off.
Clubs Carried for Player Count Towards the 14-Club Limit
The 14-club limit applies to any clubs being carried by the player, their caddie, or any other person they ask to carry clubs.For example, if a player begins the round with 10 clubs and asks another person to walk along with the group and carry 8 additional clubs from which the player intends to add to their bag during the round, the player is considered to have started the round with more than 14 clubs.
Multiple Players May Carry Clubs in One Bag
The Rules do not restrict multiple players (such as partners) from carrying their clubs in one bag. However, to reduce the risk of penalty under Rule 4.1b, they should make sure the clubs are clearly identifiable to each player.
Sharing Clubs Is Not Allowed for Strokes That Count in a Player’s Score
The prohibition against sharing clubs applies only to strokes that count in a player's score. It does not apply to practice swings, practice strokes or strokes made after the result of a hole is decided.For example, there is no penalty under Rule 4.1b if, between the play of two holes, a player borrows another player's putter and makes several practice putts on the putting green of the hole just completed.
Club Components May Be Assembled When Not Carried by or for Player
Rule 4.1b(4) restricts a player from building a club from parts being carried by or for the player or any other player who is playing on the course. It does not restrict the player from retrieving parts to build a club or having parts brought to them.For example, if a player is permitted to add a club (see Rule 4.1b(1)) or replace a damaged club (see Rule 4.1b(3)), club components brought from the clubhouse (such as the player's locker), the golf shop, or a manufacturer's truck, or other similar locations, are not considered to be "carried by anyone for the player during the round" and are allowed to be assembled by the player or anyone else.
Status of Ball Not on List of Conforming Golf Balls
In a competition in which the Committee has not adopted the Local Rule requiring players to use a brand and model of ball on the current List of Conforming Golf Balls, a player may use the following golf balls:
Brands and models that have never been tested - these are presumed to conform and the onus of proof is on the person alleging that the ball does not conform.
Brands and models that appeared on a previous List but have not been re-submitted for inclusion on the current List - these are presumed to continue to conform.
However, brands and models that have been tested and found not to conform to the Equipment Rules must not be played, whether or not the Local Rule has been adopted.
Status of “X-Out”, “Refurbished” and “Practice” Balls
If a player chooses to play a ball that is marked as "X-Out" or "Practice" by the manufacturer, or a ball that has been refurbished, these balls are treated as follows under the Equipment Rules:
"X-Out" is the common name used for a golf ball that a manufacturer considers to be imperfect (often for aesthetic reasons only, such as paint or printing errors) and, therefore, has crossed out the brand name. "Refurbished" refers to a second-hand golf ball that has been cleaned and stamped as "refurbished" or a similar stamping. In the absence of strong evidence to suggest that an "X-Out" or "refurbished" ball does not conform to the Equipment Rules, a player is allowed to use it. However, if the Committee has adopted the List of Conforming Golf Balls as a Local Rule, such a ball must not be used even if the identification markings on the ball in question appear on the List.
"Practice" balls are typically listed, conforming golf balls that have been stamped "Practice" or with a similar stamping. "Practice" balls are treated in the same way as golf balls that feature a golf club or course, company, school or other logo. Such balls may be used even where the Committee has adopted the List of Conforming Golf Balls as a Local Rule.
No Penalty for Playing Non-Conforming Ball When Stroke Is Disregarded
If a player makes a stroke at a non-conforming ball or a ball not on the List of Conforming Golf Balls when the Local Rule is in effect, the player is not disqualified if the stroke does not count in the player's score.Examples of when a player gets no penalty include when the player plays a ball that is not allowed:
As a provisional ball, but the provisional ball never becomes the ball in play.
When the stroke with that ball is cancelled, replayed or otherwise did not count.
As a second ball under Rule 20.1c(3), but that ball is not the ball that counts for their score.
Use of Equipment
Limitations on Using Green-Reading Materials
Rule 4.3 limits the use of equipment and devices that might help a player in their play, based on the principle that golf is a challenging game in which success should depend on the judgement, skills and abilities of the player. This Clarification of Rule 4.3 limits the size and scale of detailed putting green maps and any similar electronic or digital materials that a player may use during a round to help with reading their line of play for any stroke made from the putting green so that a player's ability to read a green remains an essential part of the skill of putting.Putting Green MapsThe player is allowed to use a putting green map or other putting green information, except that:
Any image of a putting green must be limited to a scale of 3/8 inch to 5 yards (1:480) or smaller (the "scale limit").
Any book or other paper containing a map or image of a putting green must not be larger than 4 1/4 inches x 7 inches (the "size limit"), although a "hole location sheet" that displays 9 or more holes on a single sheet of paper may be larger, provided that any image of a single putting green meets the scale limit.
No magnification of putting green information is allowed other than a player's normal wearing of prescription glasses or lenses.
Hand drawn or written information about a putting green is only allowed if contained in a book or paper meeting the size limit and written by the player and/or their caddie.
Electronic or Digital Putting Green MapsIn electronic or digital form, any image of a putting green must meet the above scale and size limits. Even when an electronic or digital putting green map meets the above limits, the player is still in breach of Rule 4.3 if the player uses any device in a manner not consistent with the purpose of these limits, such as by:
Increasing the size of the green's representation beyond the scale or size limits, or
Producing a recommended line of play based on the location (or estimated location) of the player's ball (see Rule 4.3a(1)).
Frequently Asked Questions: To view a document detailing frequently asked questions in relation to Green Reading Materials, click here.
When Use of Alignment Device Results in Breach
If a player places an “alignment device” (see definition in Equipment Rules) to show the line of play and then positions their ball based on the direction of that alignment device, the player is in breach of Rule 4.3a.For example, a player’s ball comes to rest on the putting green and the player marks the spot of their ball with an “alignment device.” When doing so, the alignment device is placed to show the line of play. If the player then lifts and replaces their ball (which includes rotating it) so that a marking on the ball is lined up with the alignment device, the player is in breach of Rule 4.3a. (New)
Restrictions on Using Equipment to Gauge Slope
Although a player may use their club as a plumb line to assist in judging or gauging slope and contours, there is other equipment that a player may not use in judging a slope or contour.For example, a player is not allowed to gauge slope by:
Placing a bottled drink to act as a level.
Holding or placing a bubble level.
Using a weight suspended on a string as a plumb line.