By Kathryn Belanger, USGA Rules of Golf Associate – Article courtesy of USGA.org
In Competition, How Do The Rules View Changing Clubs During A Round Instead Of In Between Rounds?
During the Turkish Airlines Open, a PGA European Tour event, play of the second round was suspended overnight due to a thunderstorm. Players whose rounds were interrupted by the weather on Nov. 14 had to return to the course the next morning to finish their second round before starting their third round. For one player in particular, this overnight suspension had a big impact.
Felipe Aguilar of Chile decided to swap out one of his clubs and replace it with a new club during the overnight break. Rule 4-4a (Selection and Addition of Clubs) allows a player to select up to 14 clubs to start a stipulated round, but limits the player to those clubs for the round. As Aguilar was still playing the same stipulated round the next morning, he was limited to the 14 clubs he started that round with the previous day. When he resumed play with the replaced club in his bag, Aguilar was in breach of Rule 4-4a.
In stroke play, the penalty for a breach of that Rule is two strokes for each hole on which any breach occurred. However, Rule 4-4a has a maximum penalty cap of four strokes per round. When a player incurs the maximum penalty, a two-stroke penalty is added to each of the first two holes on which any breach occurred. Aguilar had the replaced club in his bag for the six holes remaining in his second round before he realized he had done something wrong. Thus, he incurred a two-stroke penalty on the first two holes he played when he resumed his second round.
When the breach was brought to Aguilar’s attention, he asked a Rules official about the issue before returning his score card. If he had failed to include those four strokes on the appropriate holes, he would have been disqualified under Rule 6-6d for returning an incorrect score card. Including the penalty strokes, Aguilar recorded a second-round 74 and still made the cut, finishing tied for 64th.
Aguilar could have avoided the four-stroke penalty by waiting to switch out the club between his second round and third round. Rule 4-4a does not prohibit what Aguilar did between rounds, only during a round – see Decision 4-4a/2.