When you can and can't use a broken club

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Hands up if you’ve ever broken a club. Or banged one into the ground, slammed one into your bag or thrown one in the air. Apart from the immediate regret at such behaviour, these temper tantrums can come at a cost… and that’s without considering the financial implications of replacing a broken club.

PGA Tour player Zac Blair suffered the ignominy of being disqualified at the Wells Fargo Championship earlier this year after a bizarre incident during the second round. After watching a birdie attempt slide by, Blair reacted by bashing himself on the head with his putter. The ‘headbutt’ itself wasn’t the problem… but he actually bent the putter’s shaft, in turn changing the “normal playing characteristics” of the club.

The rules stipulate that if a club is damaged – other than in the ‘normal course of play’ – rendering it non-conforming, the club must not be subsequently used, repaired or replaced during the round.

Blair made the mistake of tapping in for par and, in doing so, broke Rule 4-3b. He was duly disqualified.

So next time you see the red mist, just remember the following to avoid falling foul of the rules...

A club is unfit for play if…

It is substantially damaged – which means the shaft is dented, significantly bent or broken in pieces; the clubhead becomes loose, detached or significantly deformed; or the grip becomes loose. A club is not deemed unfit solely because the lie or loft has been altered, or the head is scratched.

If a club is damaged, you can…

● Use the club in its damaged state for the remainder of the round; irrespective of whether the club is still conforming.

● Without unduly delaying play, repair it or have it repaired.

● Replace the club with another, if it is unfit for play. The replacement must not delay play, be borrowed from another player on the course or involve assembling parts carried by or for the player.

‘Normal course of play’ is...

Making a practice swing/stroke; removing or replacing a club in the bag; using a club to search for or retrieve a ball; accidentally dropping a club; leaning on the club; or using it as a cane while walking.

‘Normal course of play’ isn’t...

Throwing a club in anger or intentionally striking something (e.g. the ground, bag or a tree) other than during a shot or practice stroke/swing.