Equipment Guest Article
Rule 1a, Appendix II – External Attachments to the Golf Club
Rule 4-1a establishes that the player’s clubs must conform with the provisions of Rule 4 and the specifications and interpretations set forth in Appendix II. The USGA Research and Test Center, which administers the Equipment Rules, also publishes an interpretation booklet called A Guide to the Rules on Clubs and Balls — a very useful tool to use in conjunction with Appendix II to determine whether or not a club conforms to the Rules of Golf (see the following link):
Rule 1a, Appendix II discusses the general rules affecting all clubs, whether a wood, iron or putter. Among other things, Rule 1a, Appendix II states that the club must have no external attachments, except as otherwise permitted by the Rules. Presently, the USGA considers the attachment of anything to the head, shaft or grip of a club to be an external attachment, including practically any item or material attached to the club face (see also, Rule 4-2b which prohibits application of foreign material to the club face, such as saliva, grass juice, chalk, aerosol spray, or similar substances, for the purpose of affecting the ball’s performance).
Of course, as with many Rules, exceptions exist. With respect to the prohibition against external attachments, the USGA has recognized that certain items should be permitted. For example, decals for identification are permitted. A player who wishes to create a label with their name and address and place it on the club shaft may do so. Manufacturers’ product identification labels are also permitted. However, a player may not place any other information on such a label or place a label on the shaft which might assist the player in gauging conditions, such as a decal for plumb-bobbing, assisting with swing tempo, etc. Also, a player is permitted to place tape electrical or otherwise) on the shaft to protect it from wear during removal and placement of the club in the golf bag. However, a player is not permitted to place a decal or tape on the club head or club face for any purpose (i.e., manufacturer decals must be removed prior to play). Two very notable exceptions to the external attachments Rule are the application of lead tape to the head or club shaft for weighting adjustment (a traditional means of adjusting for weight) and the attachment of a suction cup to the end of the grip for the purpose of retrieving the golf ball from the hole (something to help older golfers and golfers with bad backs).
Another area of exceptions exists for specific uses. For example, a player is permitted to place a tee in the butt end of the shaft for the purpose of keeping his grips clean and/or dry during wet weather (i.e., raising the butt end of the shaft from the bottom of the golf bag), but the tee must be removed prior to the player making a stroke. Additionally, a player may attach a clip-on device to, for example, his putter shaft in order to prevent the grip from resting on the ground. However, like the tee, the device must be removed from the shaft prior to the stroke. In either of these examples, failure to remove the tee or device prior to the stroke would render the club non-conforming and subject the player to a penalty of disqualification.
Finally, Rule 1a, Appendix II defines the club as consisting of a head and a shaft. This means that application of gripping material is not required in order to have a conforming golf club. Many players prefer to cover their existing grips with tape (e.g., wraps generally made for tennis racket grips) or apply some form of gauze to an existing grip for better feel. This practice is permitted under the Rules of Golf provided that the resulting grip still meets the provisions of Rules 1a and 3, Appendix II (i.e., must be fixed (not loose), generally must cover the entire length of the grip, must not create any bulges and waists along the length of the grip, etc.).