The Rules Of Golf: Rule 14-3

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Jason Duffner, who was the play-off winner of the CareerBuilder Challenge at La Quinta, California, was observed making practice swings holding his golf glove underneath his arm. How does this compare with these three similar situations?

DJ Points, was penalized for holding a spongy green ball under his arm to make practice swings while waiting to play on a tee box?

Jeff Overton, was penalized for using alignment rods to practice putting on the 10th tee while waiting for a back-up of players to clear, resulting from both the 1st and 10th having been used as starting holes following a weather suspended round.

Julie Inkster, was penalized for making practice swings with a weighted donut device attached to one of her clubs in similar circumstances to Jeff Overton above.

Decision 14-3/11 illustrates why Jason Duffner did not breach Rule 14-3, whereas, DJ Points, Jeff Overton and Julie Inkster did, and were penalized for their breaches;

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.

Now we have all seen players use their putter as a plumb-line. This is permitted, because they are using their equipment in a traditionally accepted manner, but if they use anything that was originally designed as a plumb-line they are in breach of Rule 14-3, as in the Decision above. So Jason Duffner was permitted to use a glove under his arm while making practice swings, because the glove was part of his equipment and was obviously not designed as a swing aid.

Expanding on this difference, a player is permitted to use their equipment (e.g. ball, glove, club or towel) in an abnormal manner for practice swings and practice strokes that are permitted by Rule 7-2, but not for making strokes that count in their score. This permission also includes; swinging two clubs together; holding a pencil at arms-length to gauge distance (Decision 14-3/2); using binoculars to find and identify a ball (Decision 14-3/3); referring to a strokesaver or other booklet to determine distances (Decision 14-3/5.5); holding a ball against the grip of the club (Decision 14-3/6.5); and placing a club on the ground to align the feet and removing it before making a stroke (Decision 8-2a/1).

However, a player may not use any artificial device that was originally designed to assist golfers in making a stroke, or in their play. This includes, spongy balls, alignment rods and weighted donuts, as in the three penalty situations referred to above.

There is a further complication when we consider what a player may use to aid them stretching during a round. Decision 14-3/10.5 is relevant;

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 abnormal 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).
(Revised)

The point here is that during a round players may not use commercial stretching devices that were designed to assist with a golf swing, but they can uses items designed for general stretching purposes. This is a fine distinction. If you are having trouble interpreting the difference, my advice is not to use anything other than a club across your shoulders to stretch with.

Any artificial device that is not a club (e.g. a swing trainer or alignment rods) may be carried during competition; a breach of Rule 14-3 only occurs if one is used during a stipulated round. But anything that has a shaft and a clubhead, even if non-conforming as a club, may only be carried (and not used) if the player is carrying less than 14 clubs.

Finally, a reminder that following an amendment effective January 1, 2016, the penalty for a player’s first breach of Rule 14-3 (Artificial Devices, Unusual Equipment and Abnormal Use of Equipment) during a round has been reduced from disqualification to loss of hole in match play, or two strokes in stroke play. The penalty for any subsequent breach of Rule 14-3 remains as disqualification. In the event of a breach between the play of two
holes, the penalty applies to the next hole.

By Barry Rhodes

Barry Rhodes is the author of ‘999 Updated Questions on the Rules of Golf 2012-2015’, the easiest and most enjoyable way to absorb and understand the Rules. Check out his blog at www.barryrhodes.com