Dear Lou Lou,
Rule 15-3b states that the penalty for making a stroke at a wrong ball (regardless of whether you make contact) is two strokes. The last paragraph of that rule states that strokes made with a wrong ball do not count in your score.
Let’s consider the logic of this rule. A player has incurred an infraction for which the penalty is two strokes – he commits the crime (swings at a wrong ball), he pays the penalty (two strokes). When he discovers his error at some time during play of the hole, he has to go back and play his own ball (or proceed under the Lost Ball rule if he can’t find it). He will count all the strokes with his original ball plus the two-stroke penalty for making a stroke at a wrong ball (plus a stroke-and-distance penalty if his original ball was lost or out-of-bounds).
If the player had to count each stroke made at the same wrong ball, then if he hit the wrong ball three times (for example) before he discovered it was not his, he would be counting all his strokes plus the two-stroke penalty plus the three strokes at the wrong ball. Even the USGA (and the R&A, in your case) would consider such a penalty cruel and unusual punishment.
One “crime,” one penalty, and then fix your mistake by going back and playing your own ball.
Copyright © 2009 Linda Miller. All rights reserved.