One of the more controversial changes made by the USGA and R&A to the 2019 Rules of Golf was eliminating the ability for a player to replace a club damaged in the normal course of play. The new rules only allowed a player to repair the club or take it out of play altogether.
The governing bodies heard the feedback from players, particularly at the club level, and they decided to do something about it.
The USGA and R&A have introduced a local rule clubs and tournaments can use that will allow players to replace damaged clubs if they meet particular conditions.
Here's the text of new local rule G-9:
Rule 4.1b(3) is modified in this way:
If a player’s club is “broken or significantly damaged” during the round by the player or caddie, except in cases of abuse, the player may replace the club with any club under Rule 4.1b(4).
When replacing a club, the player must immediately take the broken or significantly damaged club out of play, using the procedure in Rule 4.1c(1).
For the purposes of this Local Rule, a club is “broken or significantly damaged” when:
- the shaft breaks into pieces, splinters or is bent (but not when the shaft is only dented)
- the club face impact area is visibly deformed (but not when the club face is only scratched)
- the clubhead is visibly and significantly deformed
- the clubhead is detached or loose from the shaft, or
- the grip is loose.
Exception: A club face or clubhead is not “broken or significantly damaged” solely because it is cracked.
That exception has rubbed some golfers the wrong way, with the governing bodies declaring a cracked clubface doesn't meet the definition. The standard is "visibly deformed" and it has to be cracked in the "club face impact area," so just a basic crack is not good enough for a player to replace their club.
Regardless, this local rule allows club and competition bodies to be more flexible for their players.