Golf Rule 4, Clubs – Simplified Version
4-1. All clubs used must conform to the specifications described in Appendix II. A tournament committee may require that a player’s driver(s) be listed on the USGA’s current list of conforming drivers. A club showing normal wear and tear is conforming, as long as it conformed to the rules when it was new.
4-2. A player may not alter the playing characteristics of a club during a round. Players aren’t allowed to apply foreign material to a clubface to influence the ball’s movement.
Example: It is against the rules to adjust the loft or face angle of a driver during a round, even if the club is made to be adjustable. (Adjustments are permissible before and after rounds so long as the altered club remains conforming.)
Penalties for violating rules 4-1 or 4-2 by carrying, but not using, non-conforming clubs: Match play – Loss of each hole on which the club was carried before the violation was discovered, to a maximum of two holes lost. Stroke play – Two strokes for each hole played, to a maximum of four strokes. Penalty for using a club in violation of rules 4-1 or 4-2: Disqualification.
4-3. A club that is damaged during the normal course of play may be repaired or replaced, as long as it doesn’t significantly delay the round. A player may not borrow another golfer’s club to replace his own, or make a replacement club from component parts. A club damaged before a round may be used as long as it conforms to the rules.
Examples of “normal course of play”: Breaking or bending the shaft while hitting a tree or root during a swing, leaning on the club or searching for a lost ball. Damaging a club in a fit of anger is not considered “normal course of play,” and the club may not be repaired or replaced.
Examples of a club that is “unfit for play”: A club with a bent or broken shaft, a detached, loose or badly deformed clubhead, or a loose grip.
Penalty for violating rule 4-3: A player is disqualified for using a club damaged outside the normal course of play (match play or stroke play).
4-4. A player can carry a maximum of 14 clubs for a round. Partners are allowed to share clubs, but only if their combined set doesn’t exceed 14 clubs total.
Penalties for violating rule 4-4: Match play – Loss of each hole on which the club was carried before the violation was discovered, to a maximum of two holes lost. Stroke play – Two strokes for each hole played, to a maximum of four strokes.
4-1. Form And Make Of Clubs
The player’s clubs must conform with this Rule and the provisions, specifications and interpretations set forth in Appendix II.
b. Wear and Alteration
A club that conforms with the Rules when new is deemed to conform after wear through normal use. Any part of a club that has been purposely altered is regarded as new and must, in its altered state, conform with the Rules.
4-2. Playing Characteristics Changed And Foreign Material
a. Playing Characteristics Changed
During a stipulated round, the playing characteristics of a club must not be purposely changed by adjustment or by any other means.
b. Foreign Material
Foreign material must not be applied to the club face for the purpose of influencing the movement of the ball.
4-3. Damaged Clubs: Repair And Replacement
a. Damage in Normal Course of Play
b. Damage Other Than in Normal Course of Play
If, during a stipulated round, a player’s club is damaged other than in the normal course of play rendering it non-conforming or changing its playing characteristics, the club must not subsequently be used or replaced during the round.
c. Damage Prior to Round
A player may use a club damaged prior to a round, provided the club, in its damaged state, conforms with the Rules.
Damage to a club that occurred prior to a round may be repaired during the round, provided the playing characteristics are not changed and play is not unduly delayed.
4-4. Maximum Of Fourteen Clubs
a. Selection and Addition of Clubs
The player must not start a stipulated round with more than fourteen clubs. He is limited to the clubs thus selected for that round, except that if he started with fewer than fourteen clubs, he may add any number, provided his total number does not exceed fourteen.
The addition of a club or clubs must not unduly delay play (Rule 6-7) and the player must not add or borrow any club selected for play by any other person playing on the course or by assembling components carried by or for the player during the stipulated round.
b. Partners May Share Clubs
Partners may share clubs, provided that the total number of clubs carried by the partners so sharing does not exceed fourteen.
c. Excess Club Declared Out of Play
Any club or clubs carried or used in breach of Rule 4-3a(iii) or Rule 4-4 must be declared out of play by the player to his opponent in match play or his marker or a fellow-competitor in stroke play immediately upon discovery that a breach has occurred. The player must not use the club or clubs for the remainder of the stipulated round.