Golf's Rule 4 Applies to the Player's Equipment

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In the Official Rules of Golf, jointly written and maintained by the United States Golf Association and the Royal and Ancient Golf Club of St. Andrews, Rule 4 is titled "The Player's Equipment."

The purpose of the rule, as explained in the rule book, is this:

Rule 4 covers the equipment that players may use during a round. Based on the principle that golf is a challenging game in which success should depend on the player’s judgment, skills and abilities, the player:
*Must use conforming clubs and balls,
*Is limited to no more than 14 clubs and normally must not replace damaged or lost clubs, and
*Is restricted in the use of other equipment that gives artificial help to his or her play.

It is the responsibility of golfers to know the rules, and the USGA and R&A have tons of resources on their respective websites to help us learn and understand.

To that end, these are links directly to the text of Rule 4 that is found on the governing bodies' websites:

Summarizing Rule 4: The Player's Equipment

In our Quick Intro to the Rules of Golf, we summarize Rule 4 as follows:

  • You may carry no more than fourteen clubs.
  • Equipment that gives you any kind of artificial assistance is subject to certain restrictions.

There are three sections within Rule 4. Rule 4-1 is titled "Clubs"; Rule 4-2 is titled "Balls" and Rule 4-3 is titled "Use of Equipment."

Rule 4-1(a) states that while golfers must use conforming clubs, if a club is damaged during the round you may continue using that club to make strokes (the option to repair also still exists).

Rule 4-1(b) states that golfers must start a round with no more than 14 clubs in the bag. Starting with fewer than 14 is allowed, and, if a golfer does so, she may add clubs during the round to reach the limit of 14. The penalties for exceeding the 14-club limit are harsh, so be sure to know the text of Rule 4-1.

Rule 4-2 addresses golf balls: you must a conforming ball and can get balls from anyone, including other players on the course.

Rule 4-2 also goes over what to do if your golf ball breaks apart or becomes cracked or cut during play.

Rule 4-3 says you cannot use your equipment in a manner designed to create an artificial advantage, such as:

Using equipment (other than a club or a ball) that artificially eliminates or reduces the need for a skill or judgment that is essential to the challenge of the game, or
Using equipment (including a club or a ball) in an abnormal way in making your stroke. “Abnormal way” means a way that is fundamentally different than its intended use and is not normally recognized as part of playing the game.

The Full Edition rulebook also includes, under Rule 4-3, information on requesting the use of equipment for medical reasons.

Be sure to read the full Rule 4 and definitions of important terms either on or