When is a Player Penalised for Accidentally Hitting their Ball with a Practice Swing?

When is a Player Penalised for Accidentally Hitting their Ball with a Practice Swing?

Well, there’s been another talking point about the Rules of.

This concerns hitting your ball and moving it during a practice swing.

If you were watching the second round of the Masters Tournament last Friday, you may have seen Zach Johnson accidentally strike his ball with a practice swing on the 13th teeing area at Augusta National Golf Club. Johnson then re-teed his ball and played on without penalty.

Watch the video by clicking on Zach Johnson Accidentally strikes Ball with Practice Swing.

For many of you, this may raise the question about when exactly you may be penalised for accidentally striking and moving your ball with a practice swing.

The answer comes down to whether you may have played a stroke, your ball was in play and on what area of the course it may have occurred.

Let’s start by looking at a couple of definitions.

Firstly, the definition of ‘in play’, or the relevant part of the definition,

  • A ball first becomes in play on a hole:
    • When the player makes a stroke at it from inside the teeing area, or
    • In match play, when the player makes a stroke at it from outside the teeing area and the opponent does not cancel the stroke under Rule 6.1b.
  • That ball remains in play until it is holed, except that it is no longer in play:
    • When it is lifted from the course,
    • When it is lost (even if it is at rest on the course) or comes to rest out of bounds, or
    • When another ball has been substituted for it, even if not allowed by a Rule.

Secondly, the definition of ‘stroke’, or the relevant part of the definition,

The forward movement of the club made to strike the ball.

But a stroke has not been made if the player:

  • Decides during the downswing not to strike the ball and avoids doing so by deliberately stopping the clubhead before it reaches the ball or, if unable to stop, by deliberately missing the ball.
  • Accidentally strikes the ball when making a practice swing or while preparing to make a stroke.

For a stroke to be made you have to have the intention of wishing to hit your ball, therefore since you are making a practice swing you are not intending to hit your ball and it does not count as a stroke in the Rules of Golf, even if you strike your ball accidentally

Now we come to the outcomes for hitting your ball with a practice swing on different areas of the golf course, and this is where you will see inconsistencies in the Rule remembering the definitions I have just mentioned:

  • On the Teeing Area: When you are playing a ball from the teeing area, the ball is not in play until a stroke has been made at it. This means that when your ball is teed or on the ground in the teeing area and you make a practice swing that accidentally strikes and moves the ball, you have not made a stroke or moved a ball in play. The Rules of Golf allow you to re-tee the same ball, or another ball, without penalty. This is exactly what happened to Johnson. Note that there is also no penalty if this occurs when playing again from the teeing area after starting the hole (such as after hitting a ball out of bounds or hitting a tee shot that strikes a tree and ricochets back within the teeing area). This is covered under Rule 6.2b(5) and 6.2b(6). Please note that the “teeing area” does not include the entire tee box. It only includes the two club-length-deep area measured from the tee boxes on the tee you are playing.
  • On the Putting Green: Just as in the teeing area, the Rules of Golf are lenient if you strike and move your ball which is already on the putting green with a practice swing (or accidentally cause your ball to move in any other way), you can simply replace your ball on its original spot, or estimated spot, without penalty and play on. This is covered under Rule 9.4b Exception 3

Exception 3 – Accidental Movement on Putting Green: There is no penalty when the player accidentally causes the ball to move on the putting green (see Rule 13.1d), no matter how that happens.

  • Anywhere Else on the Course: This would include a ball that lies in a bunker, a penalty area, or anywhere in the general area (defined as anywhere on the golf course that is not the teeing area, the putting green, a bunker or a penalty area). When your ball lies in any of these areas, it is already in play. If you then take a practice swing and cause your ball to move, you still have not made a stroke, but you will get a one-stroke penalty for moving your ball in play. The ball must be replaced on its original spot. This is covered under Rule 9.4. If the player instead plays the ball from where it was moved to after their practice swing, it becomes a two-stroke penalty (or a loss-of-hole penalty in match play) and the player may or may not be required to correct their mistake (see Rule 14.7 for more information).

So, there we have it. The inconsistencies as I see them are:

  1. In the General Area, even though according to the definition of ‘stroke’ you have not made a stroke at your ball, you get a 1 Stroke-penalty
  2. On the putting green, even though your ball is in play, according to the definition of ‘in play’, you are not penalised.

Please let me know your thoughts on this, I may be wrong.

Enjoy your Golf,


Rules of Golf Blog: www.my-golf.uk

Email: tony@my-golf.uk

Penalised for Dropping from Shoulder Height

Penalised for Dropping from Shoulder Height

Old habits die hard.

Rickie Fowler last Friday incurred a one stroke penalty in WGC-Mexico Championship for dropping from shoulder height, and not correcting the error before making a stroke:

Posted by JT Aimpointcoach on Saturday, 23 February 2019


Fowler’s stroke went out of bounds and therefore he had to play from the spot, where he last played from with a one stroke penalty.

Unfortunately he dropped his substituted ball from shoulder-height and not knee-height. He then played a stroke at his incorrectly dropped ball, thus incurring a penalty. Because the ball was dropped and remained within the relief area of one club-length, the penalty was one stroke.

Had his ball not remained within the one club-length relief area but come to rest outside the area, and he played a stroke at it, his penalty would have increased to two penalty-strokes.

Being unaware of the new Rule of Golf,  unfortunately Rickie Fowler also did not take advantage of the new rule in that you don’t have to play from the exact same spot anymore – you can drop a ball within one club-length of that spot, not nearer the hole.

In fact he could have dropped on the fairway (rather than in the rough) and given himself a better lie, completely in accordance with the Rule.

Ball Must Be Dropped in Right Way

The player must drop a ball in the right way, which means all three of these things:

(1) Player Must Drop Ball. The ball must be dropped only by the player. Neither the player’s caddie nor anyone else may do so.

(2) Ball Must Be Dropped Straight Down from Knee Height Without Touching Player or Equipment. The player must let go of the ball from a location at knee height so that the ball:

  • Falls straight down, without the player throwing, spinning or rolling it or using any other motion that might affect where the ball will come to rest, and
  • Does not touch any part of the player’s body or equipment before it hits the ground.

“Knee height” means the height of the player’s knee when in a standing position.

(3) Ball Must Be Dropped in Relief Area. The ball must be dropped in the relief area. The player may stand either inside or outside the relief area when dropping the ball.

If a ball is dropped in a wrong way in breach of one or more of these three requirements:

  • The player must drop a ball again in the right way, and there is no limit to the number of times the player must do so.
  • A ball dropped in the wrong way does not count as one of the two drops required before a ball must be placed under Rule 14.3c(2).

If the player does not drop again and instead makes a stroke at the ball from where it came to rest after being dropped in a wrong way:

  • If the ball was played from the relief area, the player gets one penalty stroke (but has not played from a wrong place under Rule 14.7a).
  • But if the ball was played from outside the relief area, or after it was placed when required to be dropped (no matter where it was played from), the player gets the general penalty.

Get to know the Rules of Golf, they can work in your favour.

Enjoy your Golf,



Rules of Golf – Playing a Ball Incorrectly Dropped

Playing a Ball Incorrectly Dropped

A recent enquiry concerned whether a penalty was incurred when a player played a ball that had been incorrectly dropped.

Q. Having dropped the ball from shoulder height, I have then hit the ball. I think that could be a PENALTY. If you have dropped the ball from shoulder height and realise your mistake you pick up the ball and drop from the knee and then hit the ball, I think no penalty. Would this be correct please?

A. Under the Rules of Golf 2019 you are allowed to correct a mistake before a breach of rule happens, if this is done before you make a stroke at your ball then no penalty may apply.

If you do not correct your mistake before you make a stroke at your ball, then penalties may be incurred.

In the case mentioned the penalty that would be incurred would depend upon where the ball came to rest and was played from. So:

  1. Decide upon the appropriate relief area in which to drop your ball.
  2. If your ball is dropped incorrectly i.e. not from knee-height or within the relief area, you may lift your ball and drop it as many times as you like, until you drop it correctly
  3. If, however, you drop your ball incorrectly and then play it, a penalty is incurred and the level of penalty will depend on where the ball came to rest and was played from:
    • If your ball comes to rest within the appropriate relief area and is played from within the relief area then the penalty incurred is 1 Penalty-stroke, both in Match Play and Stroke Play
    • If your ball, however, comes to rest outside the appropriate relief area and you play it from that spot, you incur the General Penalty of 2 Penalty-strokes in Stroke Play or Loss of Hole in match Play

Enjoy your golf


Email: tony@my-golf.uk

Rules Blog: www.my-golf.uk