Rules Guy: This question about the legality of borrowing a tee is the year’s most read

Golfer with tee

Are you allowed to borrow a tee from a playing partner?

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In every issue of GOLF Magazine, our readers are invited to submit their most confounding rules conundrums to our resident expert, the Rules Guy. In 2020, Rules Guy covered just about every angle of the game we all love, from using a tee to probe a bunker’s depth to whether or not it’s permissible to watch the group ahead of you putt.

But there are some topics that piqued our readers’ interest more than others. A question about whether a borrowed tee from a playing partner counts as using someone else’s equipment was published online in September, and became the most-read Rules Guy question of the year. You can revisit both the question and Rules Guy’s answer in its entirety below.

The other day, I picked up a tee someone had left on the tee box and proceeded to use it. My friend told me this was a penalty, for using someone else’s equipment. He said that if I’d wanted to use it, I needed to have put it in my pocket first to claim that it’s mine. What’s the ruling? —Wade Lindren, via email

This sounds like a demented magician’s trick: “I put someone else’s tee in my pocket … say the magic words — ‘It’s mine!’ — take the tee out of my pocket … and — presto! It’s legal!”

Suffice to say, your friend is a severely misguided stickler. The only restriction on sharing equipment relates to clubs. There is absolutely no issue with using someone else’s tee, towel, rangefinder or ball.

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(If the one-ball Local Rule, Model Local Rule G-4, is in effect, you can still borrow a ball, so long as it’s the same make and model as the one you were using.)

Accidentally using someone else’s clubs is a general penalty of two strokes in stroke play or, in match play, adjusting the match with a one-hole deduction, with a maximum of two such penalties in either instance. The club must immediately be declared out of play once the player becomes aware of his or her error — otherwise, he or she is disqualified upon again using the club.

Love reading about the rules? Remember, you can always send your rules-related queries, confusions and comments to rulesguy@golf.com. We promise he won’t throw the book at you.

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