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Golf’s Equipment Rules are 100 pages long but we’re not going to be going into that much depth here as much of this document addresses how clubs must be made to conform to the Rules of Golf. So, that lengthy publication is more one for the equipment brands to worry about than you!
However, as clubs and equipment have become more high-tech, the Rules have had to keep pace with things not previously thought of, such as GPS Distance Measuring Devices (DMDs), rangefinders and adjustable clubs.
DMDs and rangefinders
Over the past decade, DMDs, for example, have gone from being permitted only via Local Rule to being prohibited only via Local Rule – so a complete shift of position as their evolution has continued apace, which means you can now use them in competition rounds unless a Local Rule prohibiting them is in force.
But while you may now use them unless such a Local Rule is in force (it rarely is at club level), there may be features on them that you still can’t use. For example, the Slope functionality on many of the best rangefinders, which factors the effect of elevation change into slope-adjusted distances - this is still prohibited in competitive golf so you need to have that function clearly toggled to the off position when playing competitively.
Rule 4.3a in the full Rules of Golf (not the Player’s edition) goes into more detail about what is allowed and what is not when it comes to equipment. There, you will read that you may obtain information on the weather and wind speed from weather forecasts, and you may measure temperature and humidity. But you are not allowed to actually measure wind speed at the course, or indeed, use an artificial object to get wind-related information, with powder the example given. There is, of course, nothing to stop you throwing up grass to gain such information as it is a natural object.
This Rule also covers what you can and can’t do during a round with stretching devices and training aids, and what you may and may not listen to or watch during a round when it comes to audio and video. There is more detail on both in the accompanying video, but you can’t listen to music or other audio to eliminate distractions or help with swing tempo, for example. And, as you are playing, you can’t watch video of other players in the same competition if it might help you with club selection or strategy.
Clubs: adjustability & more
Many golf clubs can also now be adjusted to tweak loft, ball flight, spin and so on, especially drivers and fairway woods. But no such adjustments are permitted once a competition round has started, tempting though it may be to want to straighten out a wayward ball flight. However, if a screw or weight comes loose during a round, you are permitted to restore it to its original setting from the start of play.
You have to be careful over what's on the clubface, too. Hideki Matsuyama was disqualified under Rule 4.1a(3) in the 2022 Memorial Tournament for hitting a shot with his 3-wood, having applied a substance to its face that could potentially have influenced the movement of the ball.
And earlier in the year, Rory Sabbatini was DQ’d from the RSM Classic under the same Rule after inadvertently leaving reflective club-fitting stickers on the face of his 3-wood as these are considered non-conforming external attachments.
More equipment rules
And finally, just a quickfire look at three more equipment rules you need to be aware of...
1) You can’t use a flat-faced putter grip on any club other than the putter – so you can’t put a putter grip on a club you chip with, including a chipper, as the cross-section of the grip must be circular for all clubs other than the putter.
2) Two-faced chippers are not permitted as it is only putters that are allowed two striking faces.
3) The maximum permitted tee length is 4ins and tees that are designed to indicate the line of play or unduly influence the movement of the ball may not be used.
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Jeremy Ellwood has worked in the golf industry since 1993 and for Golf Monthly since 2002 when he started out as equipment editor. He is now a freelance journalist writing mainly for Golf Monthly across the whole spectrum from courses and Rules to equipment and instruction. He also edits The Golf Club Secretary Newsletter, a highly regarded trade publication for golf club secretaries and managers, and has authored or co-authored three books and written for a number of national papers including The Telegraph and The Independent. He is a senior panelist for Golf Monthly's Top 100 UK & Ireland Course Rankings and has played all of the Top 100 plus 91 of the Next 100, making him well-qualified when it comes to assessing and comparing our premier golf courses. He has now played well over 950 golf courses worldwide in 35 countries, right across the spectrum from the humblest of nine-holers in the Scottish Highlands to the very grandest of international golf resorts, but put him on a links course anywhere and he will be blissfully content.
Jezz can be contacted via Twitter - @JezzEllwoodGolf
Jeremy is currently playing...
Driver: Ping G425 LST 10.5˚ (draw setting), Mitsubishi Tensei AV Orange 55 S shaft
3 wood: Ping G425 Max 15˚ (set to flat +1), Mitsubishi Tensei AV Orange 65 S shaft
Hybrid: Ping G425 17˚, Mitsubishi Tensei CK Pro Orange 80 S shaft
Irons 3-PW: Ping i525, True Temper Dynamic Gold 105 R300 shafts
Wedges: Ping Glide 4.0 50˚ and 54˚, 12˚ bounce, True Temper Dynamic Gold 105 R300 shafts
Putter: Ping Fetch 2021 model, 33in shaft (set flat 2)
Ball: Varies but mostly now TaylorMade Tour Response
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