Under the Rules of Golf, if a club is damaged during a round, the player’s options for how to proceed will depend on whether or not it was damaged in the “normal course of play.” Making a stroke, a practice swing or accidentally dropping a club are examples of acts that are in the normal course of play. Throwing a club, whether in anger, in retrieving a ball or otherwise, or slamming a club into a bag, are all acts that are not in the normal course of play. Generally, this term includes all reasonable acts other than instances in which a club is damaged or broken as a result of abuse, anger, frustration, etc. See Decision 4-3/1 for further clarification.
If a club is damaged during a round in the normal course of play, the player has a few options:
1) Continue to use the club in its damaged state for the remainder of the round.
2) Repair the club, or have someone else repair it, without unduly delaying play.
3) Replace the damaged club with another club without unduly delaying play – this final option is only available if the club is “unfit for play,” such as when the shaft breaks during a stroke (see Rule 4-3a for more information). There are no restrictions on the replacement club, provided it is conforming and has not been selected for play by another player on the course.
If a club is damaged other than in the normal course of play and its playing characteristics have changed or it is rendered non-conforming, the club must not be replaced or used again during the round (see Rule 4-3b). If the damaged or broken club happens to be a putter, the player would need to putt with any one of the other clubs in their bag.