Some years ago, TaylorMade introduced the R7 driver, which permitted golfers to adjust weights in the sole of the club to induce a draw or a fade. Later, the R9 driver introduced the ability to open or close the face of the club. The latest generation of adjustability, epitomized by the new R1 driver, permits the golfer to adjust the loft of the club as well. A tool similar to an Allen wrench is used to make these adjustments.
Just as adjustability has evolved, so have the rules regarding adjustable clubs. Initially, the only permissible adjustment was to weight. In 2008, the USGA revised Appendix II (Design of Clubs) to the Rules of Golf to permit more types of adjustable features in both woods and irons. The USGA reasoned that since professional golfers could readily adjust their clubs by access to technicians, additional adjustability features would give average golfers access to similar club-fitting.
While the revised appendix permits additional types of adjustments, there are two important qualifications:
1. The adjustment cannot be “readily made.”
2. All adjustable parts must be “firmly fixed” and there can be no “reasonable likelihood of them working loose during a round.”
The “readily adjustable” provision is intended to make it less likely that a club would be adjusted during a round of golf (which would contravene the rules as explained below). The USGA’s “Guide To The Rules on Clubs and Balls” explains that, if you need a special tool such as the wrench provided with your driver to make an adjustment, the club is not “readily adjustable.” An adjustment that could be made by hand, or with a common object like a coin or ball-mark repair tool, would run afoul of this rule.
If you’re thinking about making hole-by-hole adjustments (close the club face on dogleg lefts, open it on dogleg rights), think again. Rule 4-2 prohibits purposely changing the playing characteristics of a club during a round of golf. Since this rule prohibits only purposeful changes, an inadvertent change during a round (perhaps due to failure to fully tighten the adjustment mechanism) would not be a breach of Rule 4-2.
Thomas Pagel, Senior Director of Rules of Golf & Amateur Status for the USGA, explained that an inadvertent adjustment which occurred during the normal course of play would be governed by Rule 4-3 (club damaged in normal course of play). The player would be permitted to readjust the club back to its original position, or continue to play with the club in the adjusted position. He also noted that even if the adjustment mechanism became loose it is unlikely that the loft angle or face position of the club would change.
Jack Ross completed an intensive PGA/USGA rules workshop and has officiated at state amateur competitions. Rules inquiries may be addressed to email@example.com.