Whoops!
By Kickntrue on 2/7/11
Matt is an opinionated* golf enthusiast from Pennsylvania. He coaches at the high school level, molding the minds and swings of our next generation. Feel free to chime in with your thoughts and opinions of Matt in the comments. Don't hold back- because Matt won't.

One of the most embarrassing things that can happen during a round of golf is accidentally hitting your ball during a practice swing. While everyone is laughing, most guys just return their ball to the original spot and try again. Well, while part of that action is proper, the process isn't quite that simple or forgiving.

The first thing that we need to know to make the proper ruling when this accident happens is where the ball was when it was contacted. The reason that this is important information relates to whether the ball was in play or not at the time that it was moved. When a player accidentally contacts his ball during a practice swing before hitting his tee shot, he does not incur a penalty. Until the ball is intentionally played from the teeing ground, the ball is not considered to be in play. So, whether you bump the ball off the tee when you sit your club down behind it or hit it 50 yards sideways on a practice swing, you are not penalized because neither of those actions where intended to be an attempted stroke. Thus, the ball can be replaced to the tee and play can continue without adding any penalty strokes.
While moving your ball accidentally is a violation, the actual process of moving the ball is not considered to be a stroke.

Unfortunately, accidentally contacting your ball with a practice swing will cost you a stroke if it happens anywhere other than the tee box. Whether you are finding your rhythm with a 3-wood or establishing your tempo with your putter, contacting the ball with your club accidentally while it is in play violates rule 18-2a. However, while moving your ball accidentally is a violation, the actual process of moving the ball is not considered to be a stroke. This might not seem relevant initially, but it turns out to be very important. Because the movement was caused unintentionally, no stroke was made, which means that the ball must be returned to its original position before being contacted again. If you fail to replace the ball before making your next stroke, you will be considered in breach of rule 18, which results in a two-stroke penalty instead of the original 1-stroke violation. You should note that this is different than violating rule 20, which regulates playing a ball from an incorrect position. Though you are playing the ball from an improper spot, this action is a continuation of your violation of rule 18, so you would not be penalized additionally under rule 20. Thus, if you accidentally move your ball with your practice swing and then continue play without replacing it, your maximum penalty for the entire incident is two strokes.
When it comes to accidentally moving a ball, there are about a million different scenarios that exist. The rules of golf covers pretty much all of them.

A more common violation of this rule that also involves practice swings is when your ball moves as a result of your practice swing moving loose impediments. For example, you take a practice swing near your ball, which moves a stone and thus causes your ball to move. This action is covered by the same rule as if you were to actually hit the ball with you club. The ball must be replaced and the player incurs a penalty of one stroke.

When it comes to accidentally moving a ball, there are about a million different scenarios that exist. The rules of golf covers pretty much all of them. If you have a spare couple of days to sit and read through the many rules and consequential decisions regarding accidental movement, you can find some pretty interesting situations that are addressed. However, when it comes to hitting your ball while taking a practice swing, the ruling is quite simple. It costs you one stroke and you have to return the ball to where it originally was at rest. But, don’t forget to put it back! If you do, you will be penalized an additional stroke for your breach of rule 18.

The lesson here is simple, stay away from your ball when you are taking practice swings. Whether you contact the ball directly or you cause it to move by moving loose impediments around your ball, you will be penalized. You will notice that most of the guys on tour take their practice swings while standing behind the ball some 15 or 20 feet. Very few contact the ground anywhere close to their ball for this very reason. A one-stroke penalty to those guys can turn out to be a pretty costly practice swing!


* Matt's views and opinions are his own do not necessarily reflect those of oobgolf.

photo source


[ comments ]
miketomei says:
Has this ever happened during a PGA Tour event? From what you see of TV, it looks like some guys take practice swings really close to their ball. Some even take full strength practice swings (Jeff Overton).
2/7/11
 
bkuehn1952 says:
@miketomei: I have seen pros hit their ball in error as part of the pre-putt routine. Typically they make a practice pass over the top of the ball but accidently hit it in the process.
2/7/11
 
rmumph1 says:
I was playing with friends a few weeks ago, money game (Wolf), and advised at the beginning that USGA rules apply since it was for money. On hole 16 a guy hit his ball on a practice swing and said it didn't count. I advised it did but let it go since he was two stokes behind already and a heated conversation would follow if I didn't drop it. I will refer him to this rule next time I see him. What was even worse was the guy before him hit his ball off of the golf cart and I made him play it as it lied. They were really going at it when the other guy didn't count his stroke.
2/7/11
 
woobwoob says:
I did this on an approach shot last week. Very frustrating....
2/7/11
 
birdieXris says:
@rmumph1 - that's why i don't play for money anymore. People like to pick and choose what rules they want to play by and if something isn't right they get angry. No sense in it anymore. Not even worth it.
2/7/11
 
bkuehn1952 says:
Aside from accidently hitting the ball, another good reason not to take a practice swing near your ball is the possibility of being accused of a whiff. Whiffs have been disguised as practice swings really close to the ball more than a few times.
2/7/11
 
rmumph1 says:
@Chris-I agree, That was the first time I played for money. I did not like it as it took away from me concentrating on my game instead of the bets. My friends are not trustworthy enough to play golf for money. I won $27 dollars off of them that day though. I can atleast say I'm ahead on my golf betting.
2/7/11
 
askarzy says:
I did this on the first hole in the first tournament I ever played in when I was fourteen. Got a triple!
2/7/11
 
jfurr says:
Tapped my ball in pre-swing waggle last year at my first league tourney. The ball moved 1/4 inch then back to rest at original spot. Penalty taken. I'm much more careful now!
2/7/11
 
larrynjr says:
This happened to me last season during Men's league(hit the ball during a practice swing at the tee box) and apparently neither my team mate or the opposing players knew the rule (I didn't) or the opposing team wasn't going to help me and I played it as it lie. Probably wouldn't have helped me much to retee as my skills were on the low end of just developing but if I had known the rule I might have saved 1 stroke. Anyone know the actual rule number on this one?
2/8/11
 
tennesseeboy says:
fr#$B#%@$Yb
2/8/11
 
tennesseeboy says:
Whoops! I accidentally hit post on that last comment. One stroke penalty.
2/8/11
 
legitimatebeef says:
Aw dang you mean I can't rightfully say "THERES ONE STROKE" when someone accidentally knocks the ball off the tee? Come on, that is a classic golf tradition if there ever was one.
2/8/11
 
bkuehn1952 says:
@legitbeef: You must continue to say it because tradition trumps the rules.
2/9/11
 
p woods3 says:
i say if you hit the ball you hit the ball no matter were ur at.
3/5/11
 
hongman says:
Very interesting rules wrinkle that I was unaware of. Always thought "intent to hit" was the defining factor for not assessing a 1 stroke penalty for accidental practice swing ball contact, instead of the factors of not replacing the ball to the original position or whether or not the ball was "in play" away from the tee area. Thanks for clarifying this for a Rules Dummy!!
7/29/11
 
larrynjr says:
This is rule 11-3 in case anyone ever needs it during a practice swing on the tee box.

11-3. Ball Falling off Tee
If a ball, when not in play, falls off a tee or is knocked off a tee by the player in addressing it, it may be re-teed, without penalty. However, if a stroke is made at the ball in these circumstances, whether the ball is moving or not, the stroke counts, but there is no penalty.
2/15/12
 
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