Rules Of Golf: Equipment Rules – Clubs – Rule 4

Most golfers seem to know any Rules that include maximum numbers – for example, the three-minute ball search time, and 14 being the maximum number of clubs you can carry.

But what happens if you exceed 14, even inadvertently? Sadly, you will be penalised, but there is a cap on the number of strokes or holes it will cost you.

In stroke play, there is a two-shot penalty for each hole at which any breach occurred, but it is capped at four strokes in total, with two strokes added to each of the first two holes at which any breach occurred.

In match play, the score is adjusted by deducting one hole for each hole at which a breach occurred. Thankfully, again, there is a limit to the number of holes deducted, and that limit is two.

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You are only allowed to carry a maximum of 14 golf clubs (Kevin Murray)

If the breach is discovered between the play of two holes, any penalty would not apply on the next hole. So if you notice an extra putter in your bag between the 1st green and 2nd tee, you would only incur a two-stroke penalty in stroke play, or have the score adjusted by one hole in match play.

Once an excess club or excess clubs have been discovered, you must declare them out of play and not use them for the remainder of the round. Should you do so, you will be disqualified.

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Other points of note regarding the 14 clubs are…

  • It’s up to you how that number is made up – you are quite at liberty to carry two drivers, two putters, or whichever 14 clubs you think you most need
  • If you start with fewer than 14, you may add clubs up to 14, but only if you can do so without unduly delaying play, so perhaps if the 9th green comes back close to where your car is parked
  • And you may share clubs with a partner in a pairs event provided the total number of clubs carried between the two of you does not exceed 14.

As from 2019, you may now carry on using a damaged club even if this was the cause! (Tom Miles)

Another key equipment Rule, which changed a little from 2019, concerns damaged clubs. If a conforming club is damaged in any way during a round, you may now continue to use it for the remainder of the round even if the damage was the result of a fit of anger!

You may also repair it to its original condition or have it repaired as long as you don’t unduly delay play, so this will often not be practical at club level.

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Unless you are tightening something loose, do not get the wrench out of the golf bag (Tom Miles)

Finally, there’s the matter of adjustability. Many clubs these days can be adjusted to perform differently in terms of loft, ball flight, spin and so on, but no such adjustments are permitted once a competition round has started as that would be a breach of the rules.

So, tempting though it may be to try to straighten out a wayward ball flight, or help you hit the ball lower, don’t do it.

That being said you can tighten clubs with adjustment mechanisms that have come loose during the round, provided you are not adjusting the club to a different setting.

For more rules content, check out the Golf Monthly website.