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Joaquin Niemann borrowed a rules official’s umbrella at Kapalua. Was that legal?

January 4, 2020

In recent years, golf fans have developed a keen eye for potential rules violations, watching out for everything from improper drops and misplaced marks to moving grains of sand and fluffed-up lies.

On Friday, they turned their critical gaze to a replacement umbrella.

It happened during the second round of the Sentry Tournament of Champions, at the Plantation Course in Kapalua, where a tournament official gave Chilean golfer Joaquin Niemann his own umbrella after Niemann’s umbrella broke in the Hawaiian trade winds.

News of this exchange drew pointed commentary on Twitter.

“Sure because if a football wide receiver lost his glove the referee should give him another one,” @ThomasWilsons wrote. “Classic example of everything wrong with the tour.”

“One man opinion but I don’t think that should be allowed,” @TheSpieg added. “@Chambleebrandel what do you think?”

On the face of it, you can understand the question. Like a glove for a wide receiver, an umbrella on a windy, rainy day could, you would think, have a material effect on a golfer’s performance.

By offering a competitor a replacement umbrella, couldn’t you, in theory, be giving that golfer an unfair advantage over the field?

Turns out not, at least not under the Rules of Golf.

“The rules have nothing to do with an umbrella used as an umbrella,” a United States Golf Association spokesperson told GOLF.com.

If the umbrella were employed for another purpose — to gouge out of the rough, or cue-ball a putt into the hole — that would be a no-no.

But there are no issues with loaning an umbrella to a golfer for use as a guard against the wind or sun or rain.

On the golf course, sharing most things is okay. You can borrow tees and ball markers from another player. If you’re hungry, you can ask someone else for a bite of their sandwich.

“The only thing in the Rules of Golf is that you can’t share clubs,” the USGA spokesperson said.

Bottom line: consider the umbrella matter covered. Nothing to see here. But keep watching, golf fans. Surely there are problems to identify somewhere else.

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