Rules of Golf Review: I got upset, bent my putter and it's actually working better now. Can I still use it?
It seems a little crazy, but it's true. Say you just three-putted from six feet. And say, three-putting from six feet makes you a little angry (just a little). And say, you slam your putter against something hard and it bends. Then, here's the crazy part: The orientation of the face changed just enough that if you wanted to keep using it during the round, it would actually make you a better putter. Can you still use the, ahem, new-and-improved putter?
The answer is … you betcha! Rule 4.1(2) addressed all the scenarios where you can continue using, repair or replace a damaged club during a round. The "during the round" part is key. The rules change once the round is done, so don't automatically think your "conforming putter" today will be OK to use tomorrow.
That said, let's get back to this topic. According to the Rules of Golf, if you damage a club in anger, you can keep using it. What you can't do is repair it or replace it. If the damage occured for another reason, you could repair or replace it. Just remember to get the damaged club out of the bag before you continue play, or you will get penalized for having one-too-many clubs (15).
Here's another thing to remember about this rule: It's one thing to bend a putter in a fit of anger. but if you deliberately change a club's playing characteristics during a round, for whatever reason, you can't use it. There is no penalty for having it in your bag during the round, but it counts against your 14-club allotment.
If you recall this rule being different not so long ago, you're right. Prior to 2019, you were not allowed to use a club damaged in anger. Sergio Garcia, among many tour pros, had to use a wedge and a fairway wood (below) to finish the third round of the 2016 BMW Championship after "modifying" his putter with a slam against his golf bag. If that happened this year, he would be OK to keep using the club. Although from the looks of that putter, he'd need to be a contortionist to putt with it.