We’ve all got adjustable drivers and woods these days, so is there anything to stop you tinkering during play? Our Rules of Golf guru gets you up to speed

I’ve got a house full of them. No, not golf clubs – although my wife would argue my shed looks like an American Golf outlet.

I’m talking about those little tools – the oversized screwdrivers – you get whenever you pick up a new driver or a fairway wood.

They show how easy it has become for us to tinker with our clubs to try and find the right combination that will unlock the key to better shots.

But while we know we can fiddle away to our heart’s content in the comfort of our own homes, what if we suddenly had a brainwave out on the course? Could we get unscrewing then? Let’s take a look…  

Deliberately changing a club’s performance characteristic during a round

We’re going to be looking at Rule 4.1a (3) here, which covers Deliberately Changing Club’s Performance Characteristics During Round, but let’s clear one point up first – and it’s the thing you’re most likely to come across on the course.

If your driver, 3-wood, hybrid – whatever it is that has an adjustable mechanism – comes loose during a round, you are allowed to tighten it up. It’s an example of repairing a club, under Rule 4.1a (2) and you won’t get into trouble as long as you don’t adjust the club to a different setting.

And there’s our big clue. You cannot make a stroke with a club whose performance characteristics you “deliberately changed during the round (including while play is stopped)”.

If you use an adjustable feature or physically change the club – translation: you unscrew the club and move it to a different position – or you apply “any substance to the clubhead (other than in cleaning it) to affect how it performs in making a stroke” and then hit a shot you’re going to be in big trouble.

Indeed, you’ll get disqualified.

Now, if you’ve been tinkering and haven’t yet put the altered club into play, don’t panic.

An exception to Rule 4.1a (3) reveals that if you change a club’s performance characteristic by using an adjustable feature, and before you use it to make a stroke, you can restore it “as nearly as possible to its original position by adjusting the feature back to where it was”.

Do this and there’s no penalty and you can still use the club to hit shots.

You also won’t be in breach of this rule if you simply have – but don’t make any strokes with – a non-conforming club or a club that you’ve deliberately changed the performance characteristics of during the round.

It will still, though, count towards the overall limit of 14 clubs that you are allowed to carry.

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