7 Golf Gear Rules

In this video, Neil Tappin and Jezz Ellwood look at seven golf gear rules you might not know...

Golf gear rules
(Image credit: Golf Monthly)

When playing in competition, it can be easy to fall foul of one of golf's lesser known equipment rules. From laser rangefinders to the golf balls you play, it's well worth brushing up on your knowledge of what is and isn't allowed. In the video and article below, Neil Tappin and Jezz Ellwood run through seven such rules to help you avoid any unforeseen disasters!

1. Club adjustability 

You can do all the adjusting you like in practice but in competition rounds you cannot change the playing characteristics of a club once the round has started. This rule also applies if the round has been suspended.

If you do change a club, you will be disqualified once you use it again.

2. Distance measuring devices

Using DMDs is commonplace nowadays but there are a couple of things to be wary of - chief among them is using slope features. Most laser rangefinders (opens in new tab) come with slope features which take into account elevation changes when giving you a yardage. These have to be turned off during competition.

Using golf distance measuring devices

(Image credit: Tom Miles)

Additionally, many of the best GPS watches have caddie features to help in terms of slope. For example, they give you ideas on what clubs to hit based on stats from previous rounds. Once again these must be turned off during competition.

Oh, and you cannot take anything out onto the course that measures wind speed.

3. What club did you hit?

Be wary of asking this question in competition because you are not allowed to do so. You are not allowed to ask advice nor are you allowed to rummage around in someone else's bag to find out. What you can do is ask the distance of a shot because it is deemed to be public information.

4. Taking a drop

Taking a penalty drop in golf

(Image credit: Tom Miles)

Changes were made to the Rules of Golf in terms of using your clubs to take a drop, with the main one being that you cannot use a long putter. The rules now define a club-length as the longest club you are carrying for a round, other than the putter. Typically, this will be the driver.

5. Number of golf clubs

This is one of the most important rules in golf: the maximum number of clubs you can carry is 14. If you do accidentally put 15 in the bag, the first thing you must do is declare a club out of play.

You then cannot use that club for the rest of the round, however you will still receive a penalty of two strokes for each hole a breach occurred. The maximum is four strokes.

In terms of stableford, two points are deducted for each hole a breach occurred, with a maximum of four points. In match play it is a hole for each hole a breach has occurred, with a maximum of two holes.

6. Damaging a club

If you damage a club you can still continue to use that club for the rest of the round. In some cases, if outside influences or someone other than you or your caddie damaged a club, you could get it replaced provided you can do so without unreasonable delay.

You could also get it repaired, again provided you can do so without unreasonable delay. At club level this is unlikely.

7. Choice of golf ball

There is one rule that is slightly different between tour professionals and at club level. At club level we can use one ball for the first hole, a different ball for the second hole and so on - we can change whenever we please. A professional, however, has to use the same brand and model throughout.

golf ball rules

(Image credit: Tom Miles)

This is called the One Ball Condition which only applies to professionals and top-amateur events. Indeed, because this rule doesn't apply in the club game, if you run out of balls one day you can ask a playing partner to borrow a ball!

Sam Tremlett
Senior Staff Writer

A golfer for most of his life, Sam started playing the game to prove he was the best player out of his father and two brothers.
He quickly became a golf equipment expert and has always been the one family and friends come to for buying advice, and spends a lot of his time putting golf gear, apparel and shoes to the test.  
He is a graduate of Swansea University where he studied History and American Studies, and he has been a part of the Golf Monthly team since February 2018. He also previously worked for World Soccer and Rugby World magazines.

A jack of all trades across print and digital formats, Sam now spends most of his time testing and looking after golf gear content for the website. He also oversees all Tour player content as well. 

Unfortunately, Sam is not a member of any club at the moment but regularly gets out on the golf course to keep up the facade of having a handicap of five. 


Sam is currently playing:
Driver: Titleist TS3
Fairway Wood: TaylorMade M5 (15 degrees), Nike Covert Tour 2.0 (19 degrees)
Irons (4-PW): Titleist AP2
Wedges: Titleist Vokey SM7 54˚, 58˚
Putter: Scotty Cameron Circa 62 #6