When could you replace a club, and when was it forbidden? It used to be head-scratcher but everything is simpler in the new Rules of Golf, as our expert explains

2023 Rules of Golf

Ever bent your club when trying to hit a hero shot from too close to a tree? Has your clubhead removed itself from the shaft after you’ve gone after one just a little too hard?

If you happen to have another club lying around, the new 2023 Rules of Golf have got something that will interest you. Let’s take a look at what you can do…

What did the old rule say about a golf club damaged during a round?

If a conforming club was damaged during a round, Rule 4.1a (2) said you weren’t normally able to replace it with another club. There was a limited exception, when a player did not cause the damage, where you could.

No matter how the damage was caused, the club was still conforming for the rest of the round and you could continue to make strokes with it or have the club repaired by “restoring it as nearly as possible to its condition before the damage happened during the round”.

What does the new rule say?

Except in cases of abuse, Rule 4.1a (2) says you can use, repair, or replace any club damaged during a round with another club. A Model Local Rule, G-9, can be employed by committees to limit when a damaged club can be replaced to cases where it is “broken or significantly damaged”. Importantly, that does not include a club that is cracked.

Caddy and golfer holding damaged gold club

What’s the R&A view on the change?

Grant Moir, R&A director of rules, says: “We were previously allowing repair, but not replacement. The fact is that when somebody damages their club, generally speaking they’ve done that by accident.

“They started with the clubs they wanted to play with. They haven’t damaged it to try and gain any kind of advantage and rather than agonising over whether it’s a situation where the club can be repaired but not replaced, we thought that – provided it wasn’t [done through] abuse – if that club has been damaged you have the opportunity to repair or replace it or to continue to use it.

“There may be situations where players are capable of repairing it and there isn’t a replacement available. But, if there are, the player has those options.

“It’s another simplification [of the rules] and is reflecting our desire to ensure there’s a sense of fairness around the rules that would apply in this situation.”

NCG Verdict

It’s probably a rare one for club golfers – how many of us have got ready-made replacements on hand if we manage to damage one of our clubs? – but it comes up more than you might think on tour and the rules are written for all levels of the game.

It removes any shred of uncertainty as to whether you’re entitled to delve into the locker for a replacement and anything that greatly simplify the complex rules, and makes them easier to understand, has to be a good thing. Now we all know if we damage a club we can replace it unless we caused the damage ourselves in a fit of pique or rage.

What do you think about the changes to the rules on damaged clubs? Will you now have a spare on hand to replace a golf club damaged during a round? Let me know with a tweet.

More on the 2023 Rules of Golf update

We’ve painstakingly been through every update to make sure you have everything you need to know about the biggest changes, from penalties in Stableford, handicaps on scorecards, back-on-the-line relief, and much, much more.

Rules of Golf podcast

Steve Carroll and Tom Irwin sat down to discuss the 2023 updates on the From the Clubhouse podcast.

Listen in the player below, or on your preferred podcast platform.

Steve Carroll

A journalist for 23 years, Steve has been immersed in club golf for almost as long. A former captain and committee member, he has passed the Level 3 Rules of Golf exam with distinction having attended the national Tournament Administrators and Referee's Seminar. He has officiated at a host of high-profile tournaments, including Open Regional Qualifying and the PGA Fourball Championship. A member of NCG's Top 100s panel, Steve has a particular love of links golf and is frantically trying to restore his single-figure handicap.

Handicap: 10.9

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