Rules Guy: What happens if you unknowingly use another player’s club?

March 22, 2019

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.

I was sharing a cart with a friend, who accidentally put her wedge in my bag. After I pulled a chip shot and hit her in the foot, I realized the club was hers. So we have quite a few issues here: 15 clubs in the bag, using someone else’s club, hitting a competitor. Can you help untangle them? — LIZ BURCHILL, SAN DIEGO, CALIF.

Putting a club into the wrong bag is a common mistake. But what if you hit a shot with a club that isn't yours?

Your query is indeed a mixed bag. As you know, players aren’t allowed to share clubs with one another. There was no issue with your friend’s accidental error … until you made a stroke with her club. 

At that point, realizing your mistake, you’d need to declare the club immediately out of play and take a two-stroke penalty, under Rule 4.1b. A player is responsible for knowing which club he or she is using. On the bright side, there’s no penalty for the accidental deflection (Unconscious revenge? A Freudian chip?) and you just play the ball as it lies.

Got a rules question? Of course you do! Whatever it may be, send yours to [email protected] and the question may be answered in an upcoming issue of GOLF. Until then, play by the Rules!