Rules Guy: When taking club-length relief, can you keep the headcover on?

Tiger Woods adjusts the headcover of his driver.

Is it legal to leave your headcover on when measuring for relief?

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The Rules of Golf are tricky! Thankfully, we’ve got the guru. Our Rules Guy knows the book front to back. Got a question? He’s got all the answers.

While watching the Korn Ferry Tour recently, I saw a player measuring distance for relief using his driver with the headcover still on. Is this legal? —Joe Chociemski, via email

At some (fancy-schmancy) country clubs, there’s a sign telling you to remove your headwear before entering the clubhouse. There’s nothing comparable in the Rules that requires you to remove the headcover when measuring out a relief area (or anything else you might measure).

That said, the definition of “club-length” starts at the toe of the club and ends at the butt end. No headcover, please. Thus, under Rule 14.3, players would be on the hook if they improperly determine the size of the relief area and as a result either drop in a wrong way (by not dropping within the proper relief area) or play the ball from a wrong place (by playing from outside the relief area).

bunker stairs
Rules Guy: My ball landed on bunker stairs. Can I take relief outside of the sand?
By: Rules Guy

For more relief-related guidance from our guru, read on …

I hit my drive into the edge of a red-staked area. There was grass between the stakes and the waterline, so I potentially had a swing — but there was a cart path next to the stakes that I would have had to stand on. Was I allowed relief from the path, or does the fact that the ball was in a penalty area negate it? —Will Marcrum, MD, Tell City, IN

Rules Guy, am I allowed to have my cake and eat it, too? You are lucky enough to have a playable shot from a penalty area, and you want relief from standing on a cart path? Would you like a mimosa, too? Some peanuts? How about a massage?

Seriously, though, Dr. Will, it never hurts to ask …. If your ball is in a penalty area, per Rule 17.3 you do not get free relief from interference by immovable obstructions such as cart paths, or any other abnormal course condition, such as ground under repair, animal holes or temporary water.

As the kids say, deal with it.

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Got a question about the Rules? Ask the Rules Guy! Send your queries, confusions and comments to We promise he won’t throw the book at you.

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