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Rory McIlroy

Can I measure the relief area for a drop with a headcover on?

Keep it on or take it off? Opinions differ but our Rules of Golf expert is on hand to help you solve this puzzle

 

I’ll give the internet one thing, it tells me pretty quickly what is on your mind. This is a question that comes up frequently over the ether but, when I see this happen out on the course, people often get it wrong.

So as you’re asking, I shall endeavour to deliver.

The query is: ‘Can I measure out my relief area for a drop with a headcover on?’

Titleist 917 driver review headcover

Relief area golf: Can I keep the headcover on?

When I first embarked on my journey of rules discovery, I was lucky enough to receive one excellent piece of advice.

It was from the late European Tour chief referee John Paramor. He told me that to truly understand the Rules of Golf you’ve got to start with the definitions.

The foundation to all 24 rules lie in those definitions – and the answer to this question is in there as well. You’ll find it by looking up Club Length.

You’ll know that when you’re measuring out the size of a relief area, carried out in club lengths, you use the longest club in the bag, other than a putter. That’s usually the driver.

The definition states the length of the entire club – starting at the toe and ending at the butt of the grip – is used. There’s nothing in the rules that says keeping the headcover on is forbidden.

But here’s the key. Get the distance right. Don’t pinch inches with polyester. If you do there’s no problem keeping your headcover on. Take it to the very limit, though, and you could find yourself with a problem.

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 relief area golf rules? 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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