Rule of the Month: Training Aids, Leveling Planes and Rods | Oregon Golf Association

Rule of the Month: Training Aids, Leveling Planes and Rods

By Sr. Rules Officials: Pete Scholz and Terry McEvilly
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Equipment – Other Than Clubs

While there are no prohibitions in the Rules regarding the equipment the player may carry with them on the course, there are many regulations on how that equipment may be used. Last month we focused on the player’s clubs.

This month we continue to look at Rule 4 by drawing your attention to the other equipment the player may or may not use, and some of the interesting situations that occur regarding such equipment.

PLEASE NOTE:  While we believe that a discussion of the use of green-reading materials is important, it is too complex of a topic for this month’s quiz. Should you want additional information on the topic, see Interpretation 4.3a/1 on the USGA website.

Test your knowledge of equipment, other than clubs, and the penalties for improper use of that equipment with the following questions and answers.

Questions: True / False

  1. Unless a Local Rule is in place allowing its use, a distance measuring device (DMD) must not be used to gauge distance.
  2. Listening to music while playing to alleviate distraction and help with swing tempo is not allowed.
  3. After hitting the ground in the relief area after a drop, the ball strikes the player’s tee that he or she used to mark the reference point or a club left on the ground to measure the relief area. The ball comes to rest within the relief area after the deflection. The drop must be cancelled and a ball re-dropped.
  4. After a stroke from the putting green, the ball misses the hole and catches a slope toward the lower portion of the green. It accidentally hits a towel that the player had dropped on the putting green. The player must cancel the stroke and replay.
  5. A player may use a club, or any other piece of equipment such as a fiberglass rod or a string with a weight suspended on it as a plumb-bob, when lining up his or her putt.
  6. A piece of string may be held up for the purpose of determining the direction and intensity of the wind. A powder sprayed into the air for the same purpose is also allowed but the wind may not be measured by using an electronic device.
  7. Between the play of two holes, a player must not make a practice swing with a non-conforming club where the grip is molded for aiding finger position, or use a weighted head cover on a club.
  8. Between the play of two holes, a fiberglass rod may be used to check swing plane.
  9. A player’s tee shot accidentally hits another player’s golf bag that had been left a few yards in front of the teeing area. The stroke is cancelled and replayed.
  10. A breach of the Equipment Rules mentioned above will get you the general penalty of loss of hole in match play or two penalty strokes in stroke play added for each hole where a breach occurred. Maximum of two loss of hole penalties in match play or a total of four penalty strokes in stroke play.


  1. False. Rule 4.3a(1). A distance-measuring device may now be used during the round without a Local Rule permitting its use. However, a Committee in charge of the competition may, by Local Rule, prohibit their use.
  2. True. Rule 4.3a(4). Playing music while enjoying the greatest game ever invented is not always a breach of the Rules. If playing music is to eliminate distractions or to help with swing tempo, a breach has occurred. Playing the audio device to listen to a sports broadcast, or to listen to background music, is not a breach of this Rule. However, many Committees in charge of courses have prohibited the playing of audio in their Code of Conduct Policy. It is important to note that consideration should be shown to other players. Any audio device used should be kept at a volume that doesn’t disturb other players. They may not want to listen to Def Leppard any more than you want to listen to Merle Haggard.
  3. False. Rules 14.3b(2) & 14.3c(1). When a ball is dropped under a relief Rule, the ball must hit the ground before hitting the player or equipment of the player. In this question, the ball hit the ground properly in the relief area and then accidentally struck the player’s equipment, in which case the drop counts and the ball is in play.
  4. True. Rule 11.1b Exception 2. This question serves two purposes. The first is to highlight the fact that under the Rules an article can fall under two definitions. The towel is the equipment of the player but also is a movable obstruction. When a ball is played from the putting green and hits a movable obstruction on the putting green that hasn’t been purposely placed for that reason, the stroke is cancelled and replayed.
  5. False. Rule 4.3a(1). It is true that a player may use a club to “plumb” the line of play because this is normally recognized as part of playing the game. However, using other equipment to accomplish the same task is not allowed. Interpretation 4.3a(1)/1 gives several examples that would breach this Rule, such as using a level, a bottled drink, or a string with a weight to gauge the slope or contours of the green.
  6. False. Rule 4.3a(2). Using a string, powder or an electronic device for the sole purpose of gauging or measuring the direction or speed of wind at the course is not allowed. However, the player is allowed to get information regarding weather conditions that is available from a weather forecast. Tossing grass into the air is still perfectly acceptable.
  7. True. Rule 4.3a(6). Using this type of equipment during a round could create a potential advantage for the player and is not allowed. Prior to the start of the round, both of these pieces of equipment may be used. But during the round the player must rely on his or her own skill and judgement, which is an essential part to meeting the challenge of the game. A molded grip would certainly help a player eliminate a grip problem.
  8. False. Rule 4.3a(6). The fiberglass rods that many golfer use during practice to assist with alignment and swing plane are best left in the trunk when playing golf. Using one to check swing plane between two holes is a breach of Rule 4.3 and gets the player the general penalty. As you can see from question #5, and this question, if they are carried on the course they shouldn’t be taken out of the bag and used. One exception would be if the player wishes to use them as a stretching device, which he or she may do without penalty.
  9. False. Rule 11.1. This scenario happens more often than you might think. And even if the ball had struck the player’s own bag it is treated the same. There is no penalty to either player and the ball must be played as it lies.
  10. False. Penalty Statement for Rule 4.3. A breach of Rule 4.3 will get a player the general penalty for the first breach. However, a second breach will get a player disqualified. In other words, any two breaches of Rule 4.3 will send you home earlier than expected.


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