Rules Guy: Is it legal to take a practice swing with the headcover on?

Rory McIlroy headcover

What do the rules say about taking a practice swing with the headcover on?

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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 trying to keep my act together late in a round, I put my (normal) headcover on my driver and take several swings to try to keep/find my tempo, complete my turn, etc. The headcover adds some weight and creates some air resistance. I know I can’t use training devices during a round, and the rules specifically mention “weighted headcovers,” and I suppose I could instead swing two irons instead to a similar end — but I liked the feel of my “headcover” swing. Am I breaking a rule, or the spirit of a rule?
— Mike Kaestle, Winnetka, IL

Mike, so long as the headcover is indeed “normal,” you aren’t in breach of Rule 4.3a.

If, however, it were designed or altered in any way to add weight or to help assist in making a stroke as a training aid then it could not be used for a practice swing — it’s the general penalty for the first breach and disqualification for the second breach.

Here’s hoping your headcover isn’t a special head case.

Rules Guy: I hit my ball with a practice swing, after taking a free drop. What now?
By: Rules Guy

For more practice-swing guidance from our guru, read on …

I’ve heard that if your ball is in a bunker, you can go into another bunker to take practice swings that touch the sand. But I interpret Rule 12.2b as meaning that all bunkers are equally relevant. True? — Roy Shin, via email

Rules Guy is firmly of the opinion that “going bunker to bunker” should strictly refer to one’s terrible sand play rather than hopscotching between traps to test the surface. But neither of us make the rules, Roy, we just must play by them.

While there was a time when there was a clause specific to testing “similar hazards,” that restriction and terminology have gone the way of the hickory shaft.

Rule 12.2b applies to the bunker in which the ball lies, so nothing in the rules prevents one from taking practice swings in a nearby, similar bunker — except the annoyance of one’s fellow players and course maintenance workers.

Need help unriddling the greens at your home course? Pick up a custom Green Book from 8AM Golf affiliate Golf Logix.

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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