Skip to main content

The Official Website of the Golf Coaches Association of America



Unusual Use of Equipment

August 2009
By John Reis

Rule 14 deals with Striking the Ball and the sub-section, Rule 14-3, concerns itself with Artificial Devices, Unusual Equipment and Unusual Use of equipment. My article this month will concentrate on the unusual use of equipment. Before any discussion of equipment, we have to know the definition. I am sure you have heard, ad nausea, our many admonitions that if you want to know the rules, the first thing you have to know is The Definition. So many times the definition alone will allow us to solve questions on the golf course. That being said, let's look at the definition:

"Equipment is anything used, worn or carried by the player or anything carried for the player by his partner or either of their caddies, except any ball he has played at the hole being played and any small object, such as a coin or tee, when used to mark the position of a ball or the extent of an area in which a ball is to be dropped." So we see that if a player uses, wears, or carries anything, it is considered to be equipment. So clubs tees and, yes, even water bottles when carried by the player, partner or either of their caddies, are all equipment. But Rule 14-3 goes on to say that during a stipulated round the player must not use any artificial device, unusual equipment, or any equipment used in an unusual manner.  The exception (Exception 2) states: A player is not in breach of this rule if he uses equipment in a traditionally accepted manner.

It is this last thought that is the subject of this article. There are decisions dealing with a player leaning on a club to steady or balance himself while making a stroke with another club, or strategically placing his water bottle on the green to determine slope. These are cases of ordinary equipment used in an unusual manner, and they are a breach of the rules the penalty for which is DISQUALIFICATON.

At the 2009 Ohio State Women's Amateur Championship held last month, in the semi-final match a player customarily chewed on a tee as she played. The chewing of the tee was not an occasional habit, as many of us will plop one in our mouths as we walk off the tee and maybe keep it there for a hole or two. She constantly had this tee in her mouth. Finally late in her match, she was asked why the tee? and her response was that she had it there to help her keep her head still. This is a clear violation of Rule 14-3. A tee is designed to hold a ball on the teeing ground, and when it is used in that manner, it is equipment- by definition. Also, by definition, It loses its equipment status when used to measure an area for a drop or to mark the position of a ball, but at all other times it is equipment, and when the player revealed that she used this equipment in an unusual manner to assist her in making a stroke, she was in breach of Rule 14-3 and was subsequently disqualified.

An interesting example of a rule we really don't get too involved with, but it certainly is something to chew on, wouldn't you agree?