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Renslow: Taking out frustration on clubs has consequences

It was a clear day in San Francisco some 25 years ago. As a teenager, it was my first entry into the City Golf Championship, the most historic and largest municipal golf competition in the world.

After a good start, my game went a little sideways and my brain wasn’t far behind. Following a shot that should have been successful, but wasn’t, I made the logical choice to take it out on my equipment. Soon, the head of my sand wedge was buried in the bottom of my golf bag.

The wedge was in two pieces and as I carried my bag, one by one the clubs kept sliding out the bottom. I would take several steps; hear the golf club make its way out of the bag and onto the ground, stop, and reload the club into the bag. As you can imagine this made the round a whole lot better.



From that day forward, I swore that I would never break or throw a club out of frustration. And I’ve almost held to it.

Even tour players are susceptible to outbursts. Years ago, Tommy Bolt was infamous for his helicopters (the sound a club makes after you throw it). Steve Pate was nicknamed ‘Volcano.’ But, it’s highly unlikely this would improve their game or their score.




We witnessed this a few weeks ago when one of the PGA Tour’s young stars, Rory McIlroy, hit his second shot into the water on the 18th hole (his 9th hole) at Doral. A few moments later, the 3-iron chosen for the shot was the next thing to find the bottom of that lake.

The question on the table is — can a club be replaced if it is lost or broken on the course?

This is a two-part answer. The Rules of Golf state that: “If, during a stipulated round, a player’s club is damaged other than in the normal course of play rendering it non-conforming or changing its playing characteristics, the club must not subsequently be used or replaced during the round.”

In this case, McIlroy’s club was irretrievable and falls under the same rule. So, McIlroy had to play the remaining ten holes of his round with 13 clubs (rather than the standard 14 clubs).

Part two of the answer was illustrated just a week or so later when Phil Mickelson took a swing with his 8-iron out of a bunker during the Valero Texas Open in San Antonio. The club broke at the hosel, leaving Phil with the shaft of the club still in his hands while the head stumbled off the edge of the bunker and down the fairway.

This club was damaged during the ‘normal course of play’ and could be replaced. In fact, one of the boys in the Callaway tech truck had the new 8-iron in Phil’s bag before he needed it on the next par-3.

So, can a club be replaced if it is lost or broken on the course? If it’s during the normal course of play, yes. If it is out of frustration or carelessness (such as an unfortunate golf cart incident) we’ve got to pay the piper and live without that club for the rest of the round.

Granted, sometimes our emotions get the best of us. “Felt good at the time,” McIlroy said. “Look, I just let frustration get the better of me. It was heat of the moment, and I mean, if it had been any other club I probably wouldn’t have but I didn’t need a 3-iron for the rest of the round so I thought, why not?”

If it does, I officially don’t condone throwing golf clubs. Unofficially, I would recommend aiming it down the fairway.

John Renslow is general manager and director of golf at Alta Sierra Country Club. Please contact John with your questions or comments at jrenslow@pga.com.


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