Rules Guy: Does tucking your shirt sleeve constitute using equipment in an abnormal way?

Tiger Woods liked to tuck his sleeve early in his career.

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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.

You see it on Tour all the time: A player tucks his shirt under his armpit just to emphasize the feeling that his body and arms move in unison. Yet Rule 4.3a states that a player “must not create a potential advantage by using equipment that artificially eliminates or reduces the need for a skill or judgment that is essential to the challenge of the game,” nor use equipment “in an abnormal way in making a stroke.” Is this use of clothing really permitted? — Hans van den Hof, The Netherlands

Whether or not one thinks this is a tucking disgrace — Rules Guy will keep his personal thoughts to himself in this instance — the fact of the matter is that players may indeed place their shirt under their armpit regardless of the reason.

What you can’t do is take a separate piece of clothing and stick it where the sun don’t shine under your arm and make a stroke with it there… Oh, heck, RG can’t keep up this facade! Tucking should be only shirts into shorts, pants or skirts for goodness’ sake! But he doesn’t make the rules, he just tries to impartially elucidate them. #notuckrule

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

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Rules Guy: Is it permissible to wear earplugs to block out background noise?
By: Rules Guy

I switched to a new Odyssey Arm Lock putter about a month ago. Meanwhile, I developed golfer’s elbow, so I bought a brace with a pad that presses on my forearm. The putter shaft rests against this pad during the stroke. Putting feels more stable with the brace, and I’m holing more putts too, which made me wonder: Is the combination of brace and putter legal? — Chip Chase, via email 

Question: How’s that arm feeling today, Chip?

Under Rule 4.3b, if you have a legitimate medical reason to use the support, and the committee in charge of the competition decides it doesn’t give you an unfair advantage over other players, then you’re free and clear to brace yourself.

It’s strongly suggested that you talk beforehand to the committee (which may or may not want, say, a doctor’s note to validate the injury) so questions aren’t raised during or after play. Without an exemption, you may fall afoul of Rule 4.3a, “Allowed and Prohibited Uses of Equipment.”

That’s a tiered penalty, with the first infraction the general penalty of two strokes in stroke play or loss of hole in match play, followed by disqualification for a second infraction. 

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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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