Pro Disqualified From Houston Open For Knowingly Breaking 14-Club Rule

Staring down a missed cut at the Cadence Bank Houston Open, Mark Hubbard went to great lengths to right the ship and end his competitive season on a positive note.

After a frustrating 8-over par start put him comfortably outside the cut line, he went rogue and made an unorthodox equipment change for his final nine holes: he put his primary driver in timeout and added a second driver that he wanted to test at the turn, an illegal 15th club.

He went on to use the extra driver and shot 1-over par on the back nine with two birdies sprinkled in, a slight improvement from his previous 27-hole stretch, but a disappointing 9-over par 36-hole total nonetheless. 

It was a bold move, one he knew he would be penalized for, but the extent to which he would be punished was not fully understood by Hubbard

Rules officials informed Hubbard that knowingly breaking the rule would not result in a two-stroke penalty per hole in which he carried the 15th club. Instead, when he knowingly broke the rule by adding a 15th club, he was in breach of Rule 4.1c, not just Rule 4.1b.

“When a player becomes aware during a round that he or she is in breach of Rule 4.1b(1), (2) or (3) for having more than 14 clubs or for making a stroke with another player’s club, the player must immediately take an action that clearly indicates each club that is being taken out of play,” the rule states.

What he failed to grasp was that knowingly adding the 15th club and not taking immediate action while using said club on the back nine would result in not just penalty strokes and a missed cut, but a disqualification.

The rules state, “The player gets the general penalty (two penalty strokes) for each hole where a breach happened, with a maximum of four penalty strokes in the round (adding two penalty strokes at each of the first two holes where a breach happened.)”

When he was approached by Tour officials, Hubbard stated matter-of-factly that he knew what he was doing, he was missing fairways and therefore added a driver with different specifications at the turn.

He added the driver with the impression that it would be a flat two-shot penalty on each hole, but the rules also go on to say that “if the player added excess clubs during the round, those added clubs are the ones that must be taken out of play.” 

Certainly an interesting figure on the Tour, the 33 year-old Hubbard has made 168 career starts on the PGA Tour and had a promising start to his 2022-2023 season, posting a T-5 at the Sanderson Farms Championship in early October to go along with two other top-30 finishes.

Since then, he’s missed the weekend in three straight events, amassing two missed cuts and DQ.

It seems he simply made the executive decision — facing an inevitable cut line at Memorial Park and frustrated off the tee — to find some fairways in regulation before his year was over.

He’ll have ample time to straighten out the driver (he was hemorrhaging strokes off the tee, sitting at -0.335 strokes gained per round to start the season), as his brother provided some clarity on Twitter following the miscommunication and subsequent DQ.