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Can I wear something to protect an injury – even if it helps my swing?

Can I wear something to protect an injury – even if it helps my swing?

We all play with niggles but what do the rules say about equipment that might protect us from injury? Our expert takes a look

 

Who hasn’t played with a golf injury? One of the sillier things I’ve done was try to play golf a month after breaking my wrist.

The doctors had insisted it’d be six weeks but, well, you know. It was summer, I was desperate to get back out there, and the first time that club met ball I got a red-hot sensation streaking right down the bone.

Bigger fool me. But we often play with aches and modern medicine, along with technology, has come up with ingenious ways of dulling the pain – from pain-killing rubs to protective sleeves and tape.

We see those all the time on the course. So the following email from Roy Spalding interested me: “Is it permissible to wear an elbow brace on the left arm for injury protection, even though it might help to keep the arm straight?”

What’s the deal? Let’s check out what you can do within the rules to help a golf injury…

golf injuries

What equipment do the Rules of Golf say I can use to help a golf injury?

Rule 4.3b, which covers the use of equipment for medical reasons, gives us a pretty solid steer on what to with a golf injury.

You’ve got to avoid breaching 4.3, which comes with some hefty penalties if you’re not careful. It’s the general penalty – two strokes or loss of hole in match play – for the first breach or related acts and disqualification for the second so you need to take heed.

Rule 4.3b (1) says you won’t be in breach if you’re using equipment to help with a medical condition so long as: you’ve got a medical reason for using it, and the committee decides “that it’s use does not give the player any unfair advantage over other players”.

What about all that protective tape that it has almost become fashionable to get layered in? It’s addressed by Rule 4.3b (2), which allows you to use adhesive tape, “or a similar covering for any medical reason (such as to prevent an injury or help with an existing injury”.

The caveat is that it can’t be applied “excessively” or help more than is necessary for the condition. Immobilising a joint, to make it easier to swing, for example, is out.

“A player who is uncertain about where or how tape or similar coverings may be applied should ask the Committee for a ruling.”

So if you’ve got a medical reason, or as is more likely, you’re just trying to protect a niggle, if you just run it past the people organising the competition you’ll struggle to go too far wrong.

Got a question for our expert?

Despite the changes to the Rules of Golf in 2019 and 2023, there are still some that leave us scratching our heads. I’ll try to help by featuring the best of your queries in this column.

What do you think about these rules for a golf injury? Let me know by leaving a comment on X.

Steve Carroll

Steve Carroll

A journalist for 25 years, Steve has been immersed in club golf for almost as long. A former club captain, he has passed the Level 3 Rules of Golf exam with distinction having attended the R&A's prestigious Tournament Administrators and Referees Seminar.

Steve has officiated at a host of high-profile tournaments, including Open Regional Qualifying, PGA Fourball Championship, English Men's Senior Amateur, and the North of England Amateur Championship. In 2023, he made his international debut as part of the team that refereed England vs Switzerland U16 girls.

A part of NCG's Top 100s panel, Steve has a particular love of links golf and is frantically trying to restore his single-figure handicap. He currently floats at around 11.

Steve plays at Close House, in Newcastle, and York GC, where he is a member of the club's matches and competitions committee and referees the annual 36-hole scratch York Rose Bowl.

Having studied history at Newcastle University, he became a journalist having passed his NTCJ exams at Darlington College of Technology.

What's in Steve's bag: TaylorMade Stealth 2 driver, 3-wood, and hybrids; TaylorMade Stealth 2 irons; TaylorMade Hi-Toe, Ping ChipR, Sik Putter.

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