2023 rules changes to know: What you need to know about damaged clubs

Golfer breaking golf club over his knee

The Rules of Golf will be a little more forgiving to golfers who break their clubs in anger in 2023.

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The Rules of Golf are changing — ever so slightly — in 2023. Here’s a few of the most notable changes you need to be aware of.

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The primary theme of the new rule changes that will go into effect on Jan. 1, 2023, is making the game easier and more forgiving for golfers everywhere. Updates to rules about damaged clubs are the perfect example.

Before 2019, clubs damaged in the normal course of play could continue to be used, repaired or replaced, but if damaged outside the normal course of play, the club could not be used at all. In 2019, players were allowed to continue using a club damaged in any way, but could not replace the club regardless of how it was damaged. In 2023, that will no longer be the case.

New rules change for replacing damaged clubs

Under a modification to Rule 4.1, players will be allowed to keep using and/or to repair any clubs damaged during the round, no matter what the damage and even if the player damaged it in anger, by, for example, slamming the club. Players will not be allowed to replace a damaged club, except when it is damaged during the round by an outside influence or natural forces, or by someone other than the player or his or her caddie.

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According to the governing bodies, this rules change will benefit players in several ways:

  • It helps players avoid the disqualification penalties that could have arisen previously when a player hit a club against something in anger and then continued to use the club, not realizing that the shaft was slightly bent or some other damage had occurred.
  • The player is able to choose whether to continue using that club in its damaged state or to use another club; whereas previously, for example, a player who damaged a putter in anger was not allowed to use it for the rest of the round (even if it was still in a usable form) and so ended up having to putt with a wedge or another club.

Lesser-known club rule change for 2023

Another update to rules regarding conforming clubs that has received less attention that will also go into effect on Jan. 1 was likely inspired from an unfortunate rules violation on the PGA Tour this year.

Rory Sabbatini had just finished off a solid opening round at the 2022 RSM Classic when he looked at his fairway wood and noticed something wrong. Affixed to the face of the wood were stickers he’d been using on the range to test the club.

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Unfortunately, he forgot to remove the stickers before his round.

Upon informing rules officials of the issue, Sabbatini was disqualified under Rule 4.1 for having a “non-conforming external attachment to the face of a club he used during the round.”

But as of Jan. 1, that rule will change slightly. Under the updated Rule 4.1a(3), golfers will be allowed to remove any clubface sticker from the club before using it without penalty, and then continue to use that club during the round. The old rule prohibited the use of the club even after the stickers were removed.

Kevin Cunningham

Kevin Cunningham

Golf.com Editor

As managing producer for GOLF.com, Cunningham edits, writes and publishes stories on GOLF.com, and manages the brand’s e-newsletters, which reach more than 1.4 million subscribers each month. A former two-time intern, he also helps keep GOLF.com humming outside the news-breaking stories and service content provided by our reporters and writers, and works with the tech team in the development of new products and innovative ways to deliver an engaging site to our audience.