Rules of Golf Review: Can I use a long putter when measuring my relief area?
There are two questions that need to be addressed in this rules post, although it might seem like there should be just one.
The first is, can you use a long putter to create the biggest drop area possible when taking relief? It is a club, after all, and it would seem to be one of those situations where you can take advantage of the Rules of Golf. You see the pros do it all the time, getting out of bad situations with a creative application of the book.
For example, you can get relief from an immovable obstruction like a sprinkler head if your ball, stance or swing is interfered with by the head. The key words here are stance and swing. How you choose to play your next shot can be the difference between getting free relief and playing the ball as it lies. If your lob-shot stance is wider than your regular chipping stance, and it happens to create a situation where your foot is touching the spinkler head, maybe it's the shot you were planning to play. (That's between you and the golf gods, but there's nothing stopping you from taking free relief in that situation.)
Back to the question of using a long putter to measure a clublength. Unfortunately, this isn't one of those "loophole" situations. The answer is no. A recent change to the Rules of Golf under Definitions states that the longest club in your bag, other than your putter, is considered a "club-length" when measuring for relief. In most cases it's going to be your driver and, as the rules have specified, that club can be no longer than 48 inches (although there is a local rule that can reduce the length allowed to 46).
The follow-up question you might wonder is, can you use a putter at all when measuring a relief area? The answer is yes. You can use any club, even a putter, to measure your relief area. But because the putter isn't your longest club, you wouldn't be getting the maximum amount of relief if you used it to measure, so it doesn't necessarily make sense to do so. If your long putter were somehow shorter than your driver, there would be nothing stopping you from measuring with it. Again, it just wouldn't be what the rules considers a full clublength.