When John Senden’s driver snapped inside the grip at the 2018 Australian PGA Championship, the Aussie veteran was still in shock he would be forced to count the swing he made with a broken club as an actual stroke. However, there was at least some solace that he would be able to replace his driver because it was damaged in the course of regular golf play. Under the Rules of Golf, he would be able to replace his driver to give him a 14-club set.
Under the new Rules of Golf, which start on Jan. 1, 2019, that won’t be possible.
Can’t replace broken clubs
With the USGA and R&A’s overhaul of the golf rules, one of the changes now prohibits golfers from replacing their damaged club for any reason — whether it happens in the course of play or in some act of sabotage, like a fit of anger. Under the old version of the rules, a golfer couldn’t replace a club they broke out of anger or in a purposeful act of self-sabotage. Now, under the new rules and Rule 4.1, the circumstance in which a golfer can replace a broken club is limited to basically acts of nature or outside influences beyond a player and their caddie.
Instead, a golfer will now have the option to repair the original club, if possible, and continue playing with it. In Senden’s case, he would be allowed to attempt to repair the broken shaft inside the grip (which, really, would be impossible). If he couldn’t complete the repair in what would be deemed a timely fashion and not holding up the competition, then he would have to complete the round with just 13 clubs.
In the end, Senden actually did play the rest of his Aussie PGA Championship round with just 13 clubs, sticking with 3-wood as his driving club. Starting in 2019, though, that won’t be an option.
Can still use damaged clubs
However, the opposite side of that coin is potentially good news for golfers. In the old Rules of Golf, players were not allowed to use a club damaged out of anger or self-sabotage, even if the damage was a slight bend to a shaft or lie angle. Now, under the 2019 Rules of Golf, a golfer can continue using that club so long as its structurally sound. This means a player can avoid disqualification if they continue using a club they damaged out of anger, particularly after so many disqualifications happen well after a player damages the club and they themselves have deemed it not damaged.