USGA’s Rules of Golf: The Player’s Equipment

by | Jan 15, 2020

If you want to play golf like a pro, you can’t just use ANY golf equipment. According to the United States Golf Association’s handbook, The Rules of Golf, you must use compliant golf clubs and balls; you are not allowed to use equipment that gives you an unfair advantage in a match. The golf experts at the Deer Creek Golf Club go into detail on the USGA’s Rule 4: The Player’s Equipment.

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As previously mentioned, golf clubs must be compliant with the requirements in the USGA Equipment Rules,[1] which states a stroke should comply with not only new golf clubs but also ones that have been deliberate or accidentally modified in any way. However, if a compliant golf club’s performance characteristic changes due to normal use, it’s still deemed a conforming club. “Performing characteristics” is defined as any feature of the club that shapes how it performs in a stroke. [2] For example, its grip, clubhead, shaft, or lie are considered performing characteristics.

Rule 4 of The Player’s Equipment section also mentions a limit of 14 golf clubs. A player is not to start a round with more than 14 clubs, nor are they to have more than 14 clubs during the round. If the player starts the round with less than 14 clubs, they are permitted to add up to the 14-club limit. On the other hand, if the player notices they have more than 14 clubs in their possession, they must promptly remove the excess of clubs.

Golf Balls

Just like compliant golf clubs are required in Rule 4, the player’s equipment must also include compliant balls. Since golf balls can break after a stroke, the player doesn’t incur a penalty, but the stroke does not count. If the player has any reason to believe their ball has broken while playing a hole, they are allowed to lift the ball to examine it, but the spot from which the ball was lifted must be marked and the ball cannot be cleaned.

If the player needs to switch out balls, they are permitted to do so if the damage affects its performance. Scratches, scrapes, or chipped paint on a golf ball do not qualify for substitution.

Use of Golf Equipment

Rule 4.3 of The Player’s Equipment applies to all types of golf clubs, balls, and other golf gear. A player may use equipment to help them play during a round, but he or she is not allowed to use equipment that falsely reduces the need for skill or judgment that is necessary for the game’s challenge nor can he or she use equipment in an “abnormal way.” An “abnormal way” is defined as a way of playing that is basically different than its intended use and is not formally recognized as part of the game.


To learn more about the USGA’s Rules of Golf or our golf pro shop, contact a member of our golfing team at the Deer Creek Golf Club for more information!




[1] United States Golf Association – The Equipment Rules



[2] United States Golf Association – Rule 4 – The Player’s Equipment