Can you wear something to protect golf injuries?

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We all play with niggles but what do the rules say about equipment that might protect us from injury? Our expert takes a look

One of the sillier things I’ve done was try to play golf a month after breaking my wrist. The doctors had insisted it’d be six weeks but, well, you know. It was summer, I was desperate to get back out there, and the first time that club met ball I got a red-hot sensation streaking right down the bone.

Bigger fool me. But we often play with aches and modern medicine, along with technology, has come up with ingenious ways of dulling the pain – from pain-killing rubs to protective sleeves and tape.

We see those all the time on the course. So the following email from Roy Spalding interested me: “Is it permissible to wear an elbow brace on the left arm for injury protection, even though it might help to keep the arm straight?”

Rules of Golf explained: What equipment can I use for medical answers?

Rule 4.3b, which covers the use of equipment for medical reasons, gives us a pretty solid steer on what to do.

You’ve got to avoid breaching 4.3, which comes with some hefty penalties if you’re not careful. It’s the general penalty – two strokes or loss of hole in match play – for the first breach or related acts and disqualification for the second so you need to take heed.

Rule 4.3b (1) says you won’t be in breach if you’re using equipment to help with a medical condition so long as: you’ve got a medical reason for using it, and the committee decides “that it’s use does not give the player any unfair advantage over other players”.

What about all that protective tape that it has almost become fashionable to get layered in? It’s addressed by Rule 4.3b (2), which allows you to use adhesive tape, “or a similar covering for any medical reason (such as to prevent an injury or help with an existing injury”.

The caveat is that it can’t be applied “excessively” or help more than is necessary for the condition. Immobilising a joint, to make it easier to swing, for example, is out.

So if you’ve got a medical certificate, or as is more likely, you’re just trying to protect a niggle, if you just run it past the people organising the competition you’ll struggle to go too far wrong.

Have a question for our Rules of Golf expert?

Despite the simplification of the Rules of Golf at the beginning of 2019, there are still some that leave us scratching our heads. And as I’ve passed the R&A’s level 2 rules exam with distinction, I am more than happy to help and I’ll feature the best in this column.

Click here for the full Rules of Golf explained archive and details of how to submit a question to our expert.

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