AUGUSTA, Ga. – Remember when Tiger Woods snapped his 4-iron on a tree after hitting a shot on the 11th hole during the 2007 Masters?
In that case, the Rules of Golf stipulated Woods could replace the club if it did not unduly delay the pace of play. The trouble was that Woods did not have an extra 4-iron that Sunday and the equipment vans had long since left, so he had to play the final seven holes without a 4-iron.
A new rules clarification would not have changed the Woods’ situation. However, less than 48 hours before the start of the 2019 Masters, the USGA and R&A have released a clarification that introduces a new local rule related to damaged clubs.
Under the local rule, any club that is broken or significantly damaged can be replaced unless the damage occurs as a result of abuse. To make things easier to understand, the USGA and R&A have supplied examples of what broken or significantly damaged means.
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You can replace your club if the shaft breaks into pieces, splinters or is bent but not if it is only dented. If the clubface’s impact area is visibly deformed, detached or loose from the shaft or if the grip is loose, you can replace it.
However, a player is still not allowed to replace a club because there is a crack in the clubface or clubhead.
Under the new Rules of Golf that went into effect in January, the rule stated that any damaged club could not be replaced by another club except when it is damaged during the round by an outside influence, a natural force or by someone other than the player, partner or his caddie.
By instituting a local rule, the rules makers allow a committee to decide before a competition if the new local rule will be used. If there is no such announcement, the standard rule applies and no damaged clubs can be replaced.
Also under the new rules announced in January, it is now permissible for a player to repair a damaged club if possible, even if the player damaged it in a fit of anger. Under the new local rule, a player will not be allowed to replace a damaged club if it was damaged by abuse or anger – that club can be repaired during the competition but not replaced.