Rules Review

Rules of Golf Review: Can you be penalized for putting tape on a golf glove? Actually ...

July 03, 2024


Even if you haven't familiarized yourself with the equipment rules in the Rules of Golf, you're probably aware the USGA and R&A keep a long list of clubs and balls that are considered conforming and allowed for play. But what about other equipment that golfers use? Things such as tees, shoes, gloves, rangefinders—all of that stuff also is regulated under Rule 4.

What is there to regulate about such seemingly innocuous items, you might ask? The big thing to remember is that the any equipment you're using must not create a potential advantage for you in relation to other players.

Under Rule 4.3a, you can't use equipment (other than a club or ball) that artificially eliminates or reduces the need for a skill or judgment that is essential to the challenge of the game. You also can't use equipment (including a club or ball) in an abnormal way when making a stroke. An “abnormal way” means one that is fundamentally different than its intended use and is not normally recognized as part of playing the game.

All of this brings us to the topic of golf gloves. Many golfers grip the club in such a way that the friction between the handle and the glove causes tears and holes in the material. Knowing that gloves can retail for up to $35, it might have occurred to you that you can get more mileage out of one by either taping up a hole or by putting some sort of protective tape on the glove to prevent damage.

It's not a bad idea to do that, but just remember Rule 4.3a and the equipment rules prevent you from gaining an advantage by using tape. How so? Well, there is a limit to the thickness of the tape that can be used.

"A 'plain' glove must not incorporate material on the gripping surface or inside of the glove, the primary purpose of which is to provide padding or which has the effect of providing padding.

"Padding is defined as an area of glove material which is more than 0.025 inches (0.635 mm) thicker than the adjacent areas of the glove without the added material. Note: Material may be added for wear resistance, moisture absorption or other functional purposes, provided it does not exceed the definition of padding.”

In short, it's OK to apply some athletic tape or similar to a golf glove to prolong its usefulness, however, be careful about its thickness.

Carter Rich, the USGA's senior director for equipment rules, explains why it matters:

"In the past, inventors developed gloves with padding designed, for example, to assist with placing the grip in a specific position or otherwise assist [a player]. That is not a desired feature under the Rules of Golf/Equipment Rules.

"However, there was a recognition that tape applied to the glove or padding incorporated into the glove to protect against wear should continue to be permitted. There was instructive precedent with various thicknesses of padding that was likely based on a subjective determination of how much padding was too much. In the 2000s, we quantified that precedent to eliminate the subjectivity of the assessment and enhance consistency of the application of the rule.

"We also recognized that players with a medical need for padding, such as players with arthritis of the hands, could petition their committee or the committee in charge of a competition to use a padded glove, provided that the committee determined that the player would not gain an undue advantage over other players. A padded glove that assists with gripping, other than shock absorbance, would typically exceed the permission granted by the medical exception and would not be permitted for use even for a player with a medical condition."

If you're wondering, as we did, how to tell if the tape you are using conforms, the USGA does maintain a database of equipment submissions but doesn't maintain a published list of conforming equipment, Rich says. You could always check with the manufacturer to find out if the tape is too thick, but it's a safe bet a standard piece of athletic tape is within the limits. For example, a popular brand, KT Tape, says its standard product has a thickness of .52 millimeters and that would comply with this equipment rule.