The Equipment Rules of Golf is 100 pages long, but we won’t go into detail here because much of this document explains how clubs must comply with the Rules of Golf. So this long post is more of a concern for gear brands than for 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 moved from permit only through the local rule to be prohibited only via local rule – so a complete change of position as their evolution has continued rapidly, meaning you can now use them in competitive rounds unless a local rule prohibiting them is in effect.
But although you can now use them unless such a local rule is in effect (this is rarely the case at club level), there may be features you still cannot use. . For example the Slope feature on most of the better range finders, which takes into account the effect of elevation change in slope adjusted distances – this is still forbidden in competitive golf so you need to have this feature clearly toggled to the disabled position when playing competitively.
Rule 4.3a in the Full Rules of Golf (not the Player’s Edition) gives more detail on what is and isn’t allowed when it comes to equipment. You will read that you can get weather and wind speed information from weather forecasts, and you can measure temperature and humidity. But you are not allowed to actually measure the wind speed on the course, or even use an artificial object to get wind information, with powder as an example given. Of course, nothing prevents you from throwing grass to obtain such information because it is a natural object.
This rule also covers what you can and cannot do during a lap with stretching devices and training aids, and what you can and cannot listen to or watch during a lap with respect to the audio and video. There’s more detail on both in the accompanying video, but you can’t listen to music or other sounds to eliminate distractions or help with swing tempo, for example. And, while playing, you can’t watch video of other players in the same competition if it helps with club selection or strategy.
Clubs: adaptability and more
Many golf clubs can now be adjusted to adjust loft, ball flight, spin, etc., especially drivers and fairway woods. But no such adjustment is allowed once a competitive round has begun, although it may be tempting to want to straighten out wayward ball flight. However, if a screw or weight becomes loose during a lap, you are allowed to return it to its original setting as soon as the game starts.
You also need to pay attention to what is on the face of the club. Hideki Matsuyama was disqualified under Rule 4.1a(3) of the 2022 Memorial Tournament for hitting a shot with his 3 wood, after applying a substance to his face that could have potentially influenced the movement of the ball.
And earlier in the year Rory Sabbatini was disqualified from the RSM Classic under the same rule after he inadvertently left club-appropriate reflective stickers on the face of his 3 wood as these are considered external attachments not compliant.
More equipment rules
And finally, a quick look at three more gear 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 any club you chip with, including a chipper, because the cross section of the grip should be circular for all clubs other than the putter.
2) Two sided chippers are not allowed as only putters are allowed two hitting faces.
3) The maximum permitted tee length is 4 inches and tees designed to indicate the line of play or improperly influence the movement of the ball may not be used.