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Rules Corner: When Borrowing Certain Equipment is Permitted

By Joseph Foley, USGA

| Sep 13, 2016 | Far Hills, N.J.

Borrowing equipment such as a distance-measuring device in competition is permissible under the Rules of Golf. (USGA/Chris Keane)

In all USGA Amateur championships and qualifiers, players are permitted to use devices to measure distance during their stipulated rounds. This hasn’t always been the case, though. Before 2014, USGA competitors were required to measure yardages the old-fashioned way: by digging through their yardage books and pacing off with the help of labeled sprinkler heads.

Furthermore, Committees at all levels of the game first had the option to implement this Local Rule in January 2006. And, in many ways, this represented a pivotal moment in the evolution of the Rules of Golf, as the code now supported an enhancement to the golfer experience through the use of technology.

But what if you showed up at a USGA Amateur championship without a device that measures distance? Are you out of luck?

Not necessarily.

Claudio Consul and Christopher Thayer, who faced off Monday in the Round of 64 of the 2016 U.S. Mid-Amateur Championship, reflected the true spirit of the game by sharing a distance-measuring device during their match.

While the Rules of Golf prohibit opponents from sharing clubs with each other during a match, there is nothing in the Rules that prohibits a player from sharing other equipment with his or her opponent on the course. Decision 5-1/5 tells us that players are allowed to borrow all different kinds of equipment – balls, towels, gloves, tees – from another player, so long as the player agrees to share these items. Clearly Consul and Thayer had established some rapport with one another, trusting that the borrower wouldn’t run off with the pricey device at the conclusion of the match, which Consul won, 2 and 1.

So next time your opponent is stuck without a ball, tee, or even distance-measuring device, feel free to lend a hand knowing the Rules of Golf place little restriction on your charitable spirit.

Joseph Foley is the USGA’s manager of Rules Outreach and Programming. Email him at