STRIKING THE BALL
Club Stopped on Downswing by Agency Other Than Player
Q.If a player starts his downswing and his clubhead is deflected or stopped by an agency other than himself, e.g., the branch of a tree, is he deemed to have made a stroke?
Intent to Strike Ball Ceases During Downswing; Club Not Stopped But Path of Clubhead Altered to Avoid Striking Ball
Q.A player begins his downswing with the intention of striking the ball but decides during the downswing not to strike the ball. The player is unable to stop the club before it reaches the ball, but he is able to swing intentionally over the top of the ball. Is the player deemed to have made a stroke?
A.No. The player is considered to have checked his downswing voluntarily by altering the path of his downswing and missing the ball even though the swing carried the clubhead beyond the ball.
If the player had not successfully checked his downswing (i.e., he had struck the ball), he is considered to have made a stroke.
Any doubt regarding the player's intent must be resolved against the player.
Club Breaks During Backswing; Swing Completed
Q.The head of a player's club separated from the shaft during his backswing. The player completed the swing but missed the ball. Is the player deemed to have made a stroke?
A.No. A stroke is "the forward movement of the club ... ." A shaft by itself is not a club – see Rule 4-1a.
Clubhead Separates from Shaft on Downswing
Q.A player starts his downswing and the clubhead separates from the shaft. The player continues his swing but no contact is made with the ball. Did the player make a stroke?
Club Breaks During Downswing; Swing Stopped Short of Ball; Clubhead Falls and Moves Ball
Q.The shaft of a player's club broke during his downswing. The player stopped his swing short of the ball, but the clubhead fell and moved the ball. What is the ruling?
A.The player did not make a stroke – see Definition of "Stroke."
If the ball was not in play, i.e., the incident involved a tee shot, no penalty was incurred, and a ball must be played from the teeing ground.
If the ball was in play, the player would incur a one-stroke penalty under Rule 18-2a or -2b and the ball must be replaced.
Club Breaks During Downswing; Swing Completed But Misses Ball; Clubhead Falls and Moves Ball
Q.The shaft of a player's club broke during his downswing. The player continued his swing and missed the ball. However, the clubhead fell and moved the ball. What is the ruling?
A.The stroke counts but the player incurs no penalty. The ball must be played as it lies.
Striking at Tree Branch to Move Ball Lodged Higher in Branch
Q.A player's ball is lodged in a tree branch beyond the reach of a club. The player swings at a lower part of the branch with a club for the purpose of dislodging the ball, and the ball falls to the ground. Has the player made a stroke?
A.No, because the player did not strike at the ball – see Definition of "Stroke." The player incurred a one-stroke penalty under Rule 18-2a (Ball at Rest Moved by Player) and must replace the ball.
Since the spot where the ball lay is unreachable and the ball therefore cannot be replaced, the player must proceed under the unplayable ball Rule, incurring an additional penalty stroke – see Decisions 18-1/9 and 18-2a/29.
Other Decisions related to Striking the Ball: See "Stroke" in the Index.
BALL TO BE FAIRLY STRUCK AT
Playing Stroke with Back of Clubhead
Q.May a player play a left-handed stroke with the back of the head of a right-handed club?
A.Yes. A player may play a stroke with any part of the clubhead, provided the ball is fairly struck at (Rule 14-1) and the club conforms with Rule 4-1.
Striking Ball with Billiard-Type Motion
Q.A player holed a short putt by squatting behind the ball (but not on an extension of the line of putt behind the ball) and striking the ball with the bottom of the clubhead, using a motion similar to that used in playing a shot in billiards or shuffleboard. Was the player in breach of Rule 14-1?
A.Yes. Such a manner of moving the ball constitutes a push. In match play, the player loses the hole. In stroke play, the stroke counts and the player incurs a penalty of two strokes. (Revised)
Putting with Wrong End of Putter
Q.A player misses a short putt and hastily holes the ball with the wrong (handle) end of his putter. What is the ruling?
A.The player incurs a penalty of loss of hole in match play or two strokes in stroke play for a breach of Rule 14-1, which requires that the ball be struck at with the head of the club. In stroke play, the stroke with the wrong end of the putter counts, and, since the ball was holed, the player had completed play of the hole.
Striking Ball with Half an Inch Backswing
Q.A player's ball lies close to an out of bounds fence, but there is room behind the ball to insert an iron club or a putter and leave a space of half an inch between the ball and the face of the club. If the player plays a stroke with such a limited backswing, is he in breach of Rule 14-1?
A.It is possible to strike a ball fairly with a half inch backswing. However, in most such cases the player would be pushing the ball, contrary to Rule 14-1. In the absence of strong evidence to the contrary, it should be ruled that the player has pushed the ball.
In order to strike the ball fairly, it must be swung at with the clubhead. If the ball is moved by any other method, it has been pushed, scraped or spooned.
If a ball is fairly struck at, there is only momentary contact between the clubhead and the ball or whatever intervenes between the clubhead and the ball.
Moving Ball Lying Against Fence by Striking Other Side of Fence
Q.A player's ball lies against a board at the base of an out of bounds fence. He swings a club from the out of bounds side of the fence against the board, i.e., swings at the ball with the board intervening between the club and the ball. The stroke moves the board which causes the ball to move away from the fence. Is such a stroke permissible?
A.Yes. The player fairly struck at the ball even though other material intervened between the club and the ball. The Definition of "Out of Bounds" allows a player to "stand out of bounds to play a ball lying within bounds."
Player Holds Club with Left Hand and Moves Ball by Striking Shaft with Other Hand
Q.A player addresses his ball lying in high grass on a steep bank. His ball does not move, but the player believes it will move if he takes a backswing. Accordingly, the player holds the club with his left hand and strikes the shaft of the club with his right hand, thereby moving the ball. Is this permissible?
A.No. The player pushed the ball, contrary to Rule 14-1.
Using More Than One Club to Make Stroke
Q.A player, whose ball was lodged in a bush, swung at the ball with three clubs to minimize the chance of missing it. Is this permissible?
A.No. Rule 14-1 requires that the ball be struck at with the "head of the club"; the word "club" is in the singular. The player was in breach of this Rule when he swung at the ball with three clubs.
Other Decisions related to Rule 14-1: See "Stroke" in the Index.
ASSISTANCE IN MAKING STROKE
Meaning of "Elements"
Q.What are considered "elements" under Rule 14-2a?
A.Elements include sunlight, rain, wind, snow and other weather conditions.
Player Aligns Partner's Club Before Stroke
Q.A player aligns his partner's putter and then moves away before his partner plays. Is this permissible?
A.Yes. Rule 14-2 (Assistance) does not apply prior to making a stroke.
Player Holds Umbrella Over Own Head When Playing Stroke
Q.A player playing in the rain holds an umbrella over his head with one hand while holing a very short putt, gripping the putter with the other hand. Is this permissible?
A.Yes. Rule 14-2a prohibits a player, while making a stroke, from accepting protection from the elements from someone other than himself. However, it does not prohibit him from protecting himself.
Player Positions Bag for Purpose of Providing Shade for Ball
Q.A player positions his golf bag near the teeing ground for the purpose of blocking the sunlight from the position where he tees his ball. He then makes a stroke. Is he in breach of Rule 14-2?
A.Yes. As the player was not in contact with the golf bag, he accepted protection from the elements in breach of Rule 14-2a. This answer differs from that in Decision 14-2/2 as, in that case, the player was in contact with the umbrella.
While a player may not place an object or position a person for the purpose of blocking the sunlight from his ball, he may ask a person (e.g., a spectator) who is already in position not to move, so that a shadow remains over the ball, or to move, so that his shadow is not over the ball.
Caddie Shields Player from Sun During Stroke
Q.May a player's caddie purposely stand between the player and the setting sun so that the sun's glare is not in the player's face while he is playing a stroke?
A.No. Such procedure is a breach of Rule 14-2a.
• 4-1/5 Material Applied to Clubhead to Reduce Glare or For Protection.
Other Decisions related to Rule 14-2: See "Assistance and Protection, Acceptance of" in the Index.
ARTIFICIAL DEVICES, UNUSUAL EQUIPMENT AND UNUSUAL USE OF EQUIPMENT
Local Rule Permitting Use of Distance-Measuring Device
Q.May a Committee, by Local Rule, permit the use of distance-measuring devices?
A.Yes. A Committee may establish a Local Rule allowing players to use devices that measure or gauge distance only (see the Note to Rule 14-3). However, the use of a distance-measuring device that is designed to gauge or measure other conditions that might affect a player's play (e.g., gradient, wind speed, temperature, etc.) is not permitted regardless of whether such an additional function is used.
In the absence of such a Local Rule, the use of a distance-measuring device would be contrary to Rule 14-3.
Player Obtains Distance Information Measured with Electronic Device
Q.During a stipulated round, a player himself uses an electronic measuring device to obtain distance information. The Committee has not adopted a Local Rule allowing players to use devices to measure or gauge distance (see Note to Rule 14-3). What is the ruling?
A.The player is disqualified. The prohibition in Rule 14-3 against using an electronic device to obtain distance information extends to the player or a member of his side using such a device to obtain distance information. This prohibition in Rule 14-3 would also extend to a player who asks an outside agency to use an artificial device to obtain such distance information for him. However, the player would not be disqualified merely because a spectator or other outside agency provided such information to him without being requested to do so. Similarly, a player is not prohibited from obtaining distance information from scoreboards or from a referee (e.g., when using an artificial device to determine the order of play).
• 8-1/2 Exchanging Distance Information.
• 17/3.5 Reflector on Flagstick.
Distance Meter Attached to Golf Cart
Q.May a player attach a meter to his golf cart for the purpose of measuring the distances of shots?
A.No. Such a meter is an artificial device and its use for the purpose of measuring distance is a breach of Rule 14-3. However, see also the Note to Rule 14-3.
Pencil or Score Card Used to Assist in Gauging Distance
Q.It is possible to gauge distance to a putting green by holding a score card or pencil at arm's length and comparing it with the height of the flagstick. Is such a practice permissible?
A.Yes. Provided the score card or pencil has not been specially marked, its use in this manner is traditionally accepted and Exception 2 to Rule 14-3 applies.
Use of anything specially marked to gauge distance is a breach of Rule 14-3. However, see also the Note to Rule 14-3.
Eyeglasses and Binoculars
Standard eyeglasses and binoculars that have no range-finder attachments are not artificial devices within the meaning of the term in Rule 14-3. However, see also the Note to Rule 14-3.
Use of Compass During Round
Q.A player uses a compass during a stipulated round to help determine the direction of the wind or the direction of the grain in the greens. Is the player in breach of Rule 14-3?
A.No. A compass only provides directional information and does not gauge or measure variable conditions or assist the player in his play. (Revised)
Booklet Providing Distances Between Various Points
Q.A booklet contains illustrations of the holes on a course, including isolated trees, bunkers, etc. Superimposed on each illustration is a yardage scale in increments of ten yards. Thus, a player using such a booklet can estimate how far his ball lies from a putting green or a tee. Is use of such a booklet during a round contrary to Rule 14-3?
A.No. Although such a booklet is an artificial device, its use has been traditionally accepted and Exception 2 to Rule 14-3 applies.
Electronic Device Providing Distances Between Various Points
Q.With regard to Decision 14-3/5, may a player use an electronic device containing the same information?
A.Yes. Exception 2 to Rule 14-3 applies, but the player must not use a device with a measuring or distance calculating function. However, see also the Note to Rule 14-3.
Holding Ball in Hand Against Grip When Putting
Q.A player putts with a golf ball held in his left hand against the grip. He claims the pressure transmitted to the grip through the ball assists him in putting. Is such use of a ball permissible?
A.No. The player is using equipment in an unusual manner to assist him in making a stroke and is in breach of Rule 14-3.
Holding Ball in Hand Against Grip for Practice Swings or Practice Strokes
Q.Decision 14-3/6 clarifies that a player may not make a stroke while holding a golf ball in his hand against the grip to assist him. May the player make a practice swing or practice stroke (when permitted by Rule 7-2) while holding a golf ball in the same manner?
A.Yes. The prohibition in Rule 14-3 against using equipment in an unusual manner applies to strokes that count in the player's score and not to practice swings or practice strokes.
Player with Injured Right Wrist Inserts Left Thumb Under Elastic Bandage on Right Wrist and Hand
Q.A player, who wore an elastic bandage around his right wrist and hand because of an injury, inserted his left thumb under the bandage where it crosses his right palm, and played a number of strokes with his left thumb so located. Is this permissible?
A.No. Although a player may wear an elastic bandage for medical purposes in accordance with Exception 1 to Rule 14-3, there is no need for him to insert his thumb under the bandage. Therefore, such an action would constitute use of equipment in an unusual manner in breach of Rule 14-3.
Q.May a player wear adhesive tape on his hands or apply such tape to a golf glove?
A.The use of adhesive tape, or similar coverings of the hand, for any medical reasons, e.g., to reduce blisters or to eliminate the possibility of skin splits between the fingers, is not contrary to the Rules. However, the application of tape to the hand or the construction of a similar covering must not be excessive (i.e., must not otherwise assist the player in gripping and its thickness must be comparable to that of a standard golf glove). Also, applying tape to a golf glove to prevent the glove from slipping or to reduce wear is not a breach of Rule 14-3.
However, if the tape is used solely to aid the player in gripping the club (e.g., it is used to bind two fingers together), the player is in breach of Rule 14-3 as such use of tape is the use of equipment in an unusual manner.
Player Putts with One Hand and Steadies Himself with Club Held in Other Hand
Q.A player, while putting with one hand, uses another club to lean on and steady himself. Is the use of the club in this manner considered to be use of equipment in an unusual manner, contrary to Rule 14-3?
• 17-1/5 Holding Flagstick With One Hand and Putting with Other Hand.
Use of Training or Swing Aid During Round
Q.During a round, may a player make a stroke or a practice swing using a club with a weighted headcover or "doughnut" on it, or use any other device designed as a training or swing aid?
A.No. The player would be using an artificial device to assist him in his play in breach of Rule 14-3, but see also Decision 4-4a/7 for use of a weighted training club.
Use of Rod During Round for Alignment or as Swing Aid
Q.During a stipulated round, a player uses a rod to check his alignment or his swing plane. What is the ruling?
A.The player is disqualified under Rule 14-3 as the rod is unusual equipment and such use, during the stipulated round, is not permitted.
Carrying the rod is not, of itself, a breach of a Rule.
• 8-2a/1 Club Placed on Ground to Align Feet.
Use of Stretching Devices
Q.Rule 14-3a prohibits a player, during a stipulated round, from using any artificial device or unusual equipment, or using any equipment in an unusual manner, that "might assist him in making a stroke or in his play." Would the use of a stretching device during a stipulated round be a breach of Rule 14-3?
A.During a stipulated round, it is permissible to use a device designed for stretching unless the device is designed specifically to be used in a golf swing and is used during a golf swing (see Decision 14-3/10). For example, the following stretching devices may be used:
- Items designed specifically for golf but not used in a golf swing (e.g., a bar to place across the shoulders);
- Items designed for general stretching (e.g., rubber tubing); and
- Items not originally designed for stretching (e.g., a section of pipe).
Q.Is a plumb-line, i.e., a weight suspended on a string, an artificial device within the meaning of the term in Rule 14-3?
A.Yes. If a player uses such a device to assist him in his play, he is in breach of Rule 14-3.
Club Used as Plumb-Line
Q.May a player use his putter as a plumb-line to assist him in determining the slope on a putting green?
A.Yes. Use of a club in this manner is traditionally accepted and Exception 2 to Rule 14-3 applies.
Bottled Drink Used as a Level
Q.A player places a bottled drink on the putting green in order to gauge the slope of the green. Is the player in breach of Rule 14-3?
A.Yes. The player is using equipment in an unusual manner to assist him in his play contrary to Rule 14-3. However, if the placing of the bottle on the putting green was not for the purpose of gauging the slope, the player would not be in breach of Rule 14-3.
Q.A player uses a device to warm his hands during a round. Is the player in breach of Rule 14-3?
A.No. Although a hand warmer is an artificial device, its use to warm the hands is traditionally accepted, and Exception 2 to Rule 14-3 applies.
Golf Ball Artificially Warmed
Q.Is the use of a golf ball that was purposely warmed during a stipulated round with a golf ball warmer, hand warmer or any such device a breach of Rule 14-3?
A.Yes. Use of a ball that has been purposely warmed during a stipulated round with an artificial device constitutes a breach of Rule 14-3. However, it would not be a breach of Rule 14-3 to use a ball that was artificially warmed prior to the stipulated round.
Electronic Instrument Used to Find Ball
Q.A radio-frequency identification chip has been embedded in a golf ball. When used with a special radio receiver, a player may find such a ball readily because the receiver emits a signal that grows louder as the person holding the receiver moves closer to the ball. Is the use of such a ball and receiver permissible?
A.No. Use of such a ball in conjunction with the receiver is a breach of Rule 14-3.
However, use of such a ball without the receiver is permissible, provided the ball conforms to the Rules, the embedded chip has no capability other than identifying the ball and its use is in accordance with any conditions of competition that may have been adopted (e.g., the List of Conforming Golf Balls Condition).
An artificial leg or arm is an artificial device within the meaning of the term in Rule 14-3. However, as such a device is used to alleviate a medical condition and the player has a legitimate medical reason to use the device, Exception 1 to Rule 14-3 applies, even if an artificial leg has been modified to aid a player in playing the game or an artificial arm has a fitting specially designed for gripping a golf club. However, the Committee must be satisfied that an artificial limb so modified does not give the player any undue advantage over other players. If the Committee is not satisfied of this, Exception 1 to Rule 14-3 does not apply and use of the device would constitute a breach of Rule 14-3.
Clubs used by a player with an artificial arm must conform with Rule 4-1 except that an attachment may be fitted to the grip or shaft to assist the player to hold the club. However, if the Committee believes that the use of a club modified in this way would give the player an undue advantage over other players, it should deem the attachment an artificial device contrary to Rule 14-3.
Players in doubt about the use of a device should raise the matter as soon as possible with the Committee.
Use of Swing Aid for Medical Reasons
While Exception 1 to Rule 14-3 authorizes a Committee to allow the use of a device for medical reasons, a Committee should not normally allow the use of a device originally designed as a swing aid, as such a device is likely to give a player an undue advantage over other players.
Use of Electronic Devices
As provided in the Etiquette Section, players should ensure that any electronic device taken onto the course does not distract other players.
The use of an electronic device such as a mobile phone, hand-held computer, calculator, television or radio is not of itself a breach of Rule 14-3. For example, the following uses of an electronic device during a stipulated round are not a breach of the Rules:
- Using the device for matters unrelated to golf (e.g., to call home);
- Using the device to access information on advice-related matters that was produced prior to the start of the player's round (e.g., an electronic yardage book, swing tips);
- Using the device to access (but not interpret or process) playing information from previous rounds (e.g., driving distances, individual club yardages, etc.); or
- Using the device to obtain information related to the competition being played (e.g., the leader board or projected "cut").
However, examples of uses of an electronic device during a stipulated round that are a breach of Rule 14-3, for which the penalty is disqualification, include:
- Using the device (e.g., a television or radio) to watch or listen to a broadcast of the competition being played;
- Using the device to ask for or give advice in breach of Rule 8-1 (e.g., calling a swing coach);
- Using the device to access information on advice-related matters that was not produced prior to the start of his round (e.g., analysis of strokes made during that round); or
- Using the device to interpret or process any playing information obtained from current or previous rounds (e.g., driving distances, individual club yardages, etc.) or to assist in calculating the effective distance between two points (i.e., distance after considering gradient, wind speed and/or direction, temperature or other environmental factors).
Player Listens to Music or Broadcast During Round
Q.A player uses a device to listen to music, a radio broadcast or any other type of broadcast during a stipulated round. What is the ruling?
A.Under Rule 14-3a, a player may not use any artificial device or unusual equipment that "might assist him in making a stroke or in his play." Listening to music or a broadcast while making a stroke or for a prolonged period might assist the player in his play, for example, by eliminating distractions or promoting a good tempo. Therefore, the use of an artificial device to listen to music or a broadcast, whether or not through headphones, while making a stroke or for a prolonged period of time during a stipulated round is a breach of Rule 14-3. However, it would not be a breach of Rule 14-3 for a player to listen to a device briefly, for example, to obtain the results of another sporting event or traffic information, while walking between the putting green of one hole and the teeing ground of the next hole.
A Committee will have to consider all available facts and circumstances in determining whether a player using an artificial device to listen to music or a broadcast has done so for a prolonged period such that the action might have assisted the player in his play.
There is no restriction on listening to music or other broadcasts while practicing (whether on the practice ground or on the golf course, and whether by oneself or while playing with others), although club rules and disciplinary codes could apply in such circumstances.
Weather Information Accessed on Multi-Functional Device
Q.During a stipulated round, may a player access local weather information (e.g., wind, temperature, humidity) through an application or internet browser on a multi-functional device?
A.Yes. The prohibition in Rule 14-3 is only applicable to the specific act of gauging or measuring conditions that might affect a player's play (e.g., through use of an anemometer or a thermometer). When accessing weather reports provided by a weather station through an application or internet browser, the player is not actively measuring or gauging the conditions. (New)
Other Decisions related to Rule 14-3: See "Artificial Devices, Unusual Equipment and Unusual Use of Equipment" in the Index.
STRIKING BALL MORE THAN ONCE
Ball Strikes Pipeline and on Rebound Is Deflected by Face of Club
Q.A player's ball strikes a pipeline and on the rebound hits the face of his club. Is the player considered to have struck the ball more than once in breach of Rule 14-4?
A.No. The player did not strike the ball more than once. He struck it once and it rebounded and hit the face of his club. Rule 19-2 applies.
Player Hits Behind Ball and Then Strikes Moving Ball
Q.In playing a chip shot, a player's club strikes the ground several inches behind the ball and does not come into contact with the ball. However, the ground is struck with enough force to cause the ball to move. The player's club continues and strikes the ball while it is moving. What is the ruling?
A.The player must count his stroke and add a penalty stroke under Rule 14-4.
Even though the club itself did not initially strike the ball, the ball was put into motion due to the stroke; therefore, Rule 14-4 applies.
Other Decisions related to Rule 14-4: See "Ball in Motion Struck by Club" in the Index.
PLAYING MOVING BALL
Ball Moving During Backswing Struck While Still Moving
Q.A player's ball starts moving during his backswing and he strikes the ball while it is still moving. What is the ruling?
A.There is no penalty under Rule 14-5 because the ball began to move after the player had begun his backswing. However, if the player had caused the ball to move or addressed it, he incurred a penalty stroke – Rule 18-2a or b.
Making Stroke at Oscillating Ball
Q.A player's ball lies on the putting green. The ball is oscillating because of the wind. May the player make a stroke at the ball while it oscillates?
A.Yes. As an oscillating ball is not moving as defined by the Rules of Golf, there is no penalty for making a stroke at an oscillating ball. The player must continue play without undue delay.
• 1-2/9 Player Presses Ball into Surface of Putting Green
• 18/2 Ball Oscillates During Address
Other Decisions related to Rule 14-5: See "Ball in Motion Struck by Club" in the Index.
BALL MOVING IN WATER
Ball Moves in Water in Water Hazard After Stance Taken
Q.A ball was at rest in shallow, rapidly-running water in a water hazard. After the player had carefully entered the water, walked to the ball and taken his stance, the ball moved, presumably due to the current. What is the ruling?
A.When a ball is in water in a water hazard and it is not clear whether the player's actions caused the ball to move, he should be given the benefit of the doubt and no penalty should be applied. However, if the player's actions clearly caused the ball to move, he would be subject to a penalty stroke under Rule 18-2a and required to replace the ball. For example, if a player jumped into the water close to the ball and in so doing created a splash that moved the ball, he would be subject to penalty under Rule 18-2a.
• 18/10 Ball Falls into Bunker When Person Walks Nearby.
• 18-2a/30 Ball Moves After Player Takes Several Practice Swings Near Ball and Touches Grass Behind Ball.
• 18-2a/30.5 Ball Moves After Removal of Loose Impediment Near Ball.
• 18-2b/3 Ball Moves After Player Has Taken Stance in Bunker.
• 18-2b/4 Ball Moves After Player Grounds Club Short Distance Behind Ball But Before Grounding Club Immediately Behind Ball.