Rule of the Week
May 10, 2016
Not a funny moment for Zac Blair at the Wells
F argo Championship in Charlotte, N.C. this past weekend.  On Friday's round, Zac Bl air vented his frustration after missing a putt on the fifth hole of Friday's second round, and he hit himself in the head with the putter. Blair then finished the hole and noticed that the putter was bent. 

Under the Rules of Golf, the action was not a good idea

Rule 4-3b states that if you "intentionally damage a club other than during the normal course of play, it can't be used or replaced."  But Blair used the bent putter to finish the hole, and he was disqualified. He was at +7 at the time and would not have made the weekend cut, but like most Professionals he still owned up to it and stated his emotions got the best of him.  
DECISION 4-3/1 Meaning of Damage Sustained in "Normal Course of Play"
QUESTION: In Rule 4-3a, what is meant by the term "normal course of play"?
ANSWER: The term "normal course of play" is intended to cover all reasonable acts but specifically excludes cases of abuse.
In addition to making a stroke, practice swing or practice stroke, examples of acts that are in the "normal course of play" include the following:
  • removing or replacing a club in the bag;
  • using a club to search for or retrieve a ball (except by throwing the club);
  • leaning on a club while waiting to play, teeing a ball or removing a ball from the hole; or
  • accidentally dropping a club.
Examples of acts that are not in the "normal course of play" include the following:
  • - throwing a club whether in anger, in retrieving a ball, or otherwise;
  • - "slamming" a club into a bag; or
  • - intentionally striking something (e.g., the ground or a tree or in Zac Blair's case your head) with the club other than during a stroke, practice swing or practice stroke.
DECISION 4-3/9 Club Broken Due to Habit of Hitting Head of Club on Ground
QUESTION: Rule 4-3a states that a club may be replaced if it becomes "damaged in the normal course of play." A player has a habit of hitting the head of his putter on the ground as he walks to the next tee, especially after missing a putt. On one occasion, after missing a short putt, the player hit the head of his putter on the ground so hard that the putter broke. The player said that he often taps the putter on the ground, and that it was not done in anger or with the intention of breaking the club. Should he be allowed to replace the club?
ANSWER: No. A club broken by hitting it hard on the ground or tapping it on the ground is not considered to have become "damaged in the normal course of play" as such actions are not considered reasonable acts - see Decision 4-3/1.
In closing, remember that "normal" in golf means something under the Rules of Golf.  Use your head for common sense and shot making, NOT as an emotional outlet for a frustrating shot.       
Happy golfing and remember the Rules of Golf Matter

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