This is yet another splendid simplification of a cumbersome old Rule. The bottom line here: if you damage your club in any way you may continue to use it and you may not replace it. Seems fair, right?
Well, what if your driver falls out of the bag and the maniac in the cart behind you runs over it and breaks the shaft? Not fair, you shout? Feel free to dash into the Pro Shop at the turn with the maniac’s credit card and replace the driver. All’s well now, right?
2019 Rule: Under Rule 4.1:
A player will be allowed to keep using and/or to repair any club damaged during the round, no matter what the damage and even if the player damaged it in anger. A player will not be allowed to replace a damaged club, except when it is damaged during the round by an outside influence or natural forces or by someone other than the player or his or her caddie.
This Rule change will greatly simplify the complex Rules on damaged clubs.
Allowing a player to keep using or to repair any damaged club, regardless of the nature or cause of the damage, will benefit players in several ways. It will help players avoid the disqualification penalties that can arise today when a player hits a club against something in anger and then continues to use the club, not realizing that the shaft was slightly bent or some other damage had occurred.
The player will be able to choose whether to continue using that club in its damaged state or to use another club; whereas in 2018, for example, a player who damages a putter in anger is not allowed to use it for the rest of the round (even if it is still in a usable form) and so ends up having to putt with a wedge or another club.
This potential downside from a player’s perspective is outweighed by the ability to use or repair any damaged club, as well as by the significant simplification that results.
P.S. This is not a loophole for you to bang that new putter on the ground to change its lie angle during your round. The ruling bodies are way ahead of you there. See Rule 4.1, Clubs, wherein it says, “A player must not make a stroke with a club whose performance characteristics he or she deliberately changed during the round…”