Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Ask Linda #714-Practice swing moves ball on tee


We were in the first tee box of a stroke play competition. One of my fellow competitor's habits of making a practice swing is to address the ball (the club is really behind the ball) and then on the downswing he will not hit the ball.
He will do it a couple of times, sometime three times on every hole, so we cannot tell the pattern when he is going to make the real stroke. And on one of these practice swings, while his body and club is moving backwards, he hit the teed ball. Is there a penalty on this one? I want to give him a penalty because my contention was for placing the club behind the ball. He already addressed the ball so the ball is in play.  

Thank you,
Lou from California

Dear Lou,

A ball is not in play until a player has made a stroke from the teeing ground [Definition of Ball in Play]. The mere act of addressing the ball does not put it in play. Think of all those times you address a ball and accidentally knock it off the tee. You have moved your ball, but there is no penalty because the ball is not yet in play. You are permitted to re-tee this ball and start all over again.

A player who accidently contacts his ball with a practice swing on the teeing ground may re-tee with no penalty. Again, the reason for no penalty is because the ball is not in play. However, after the tee shot, when the ball is in play, a player who accidentally moves his ball with a practice swing is penalized one stroke and must replace the ball [Rule 18-2a].

As I have mentioned in previous columns, it’s best to get in the habit of taking your practice swings a reasonable distance away from the ball. Not only will you avoid the risk of a penalty, you will not spend a beautiful day of golf arguing about the Rules.

Your question raises a second issue. Why is this player taking two or three practice swings? This is one of my pet peeves, so pardon me for venting. The time for extra practice swings is on the range, where no one will care how long it takes you to hit a ball. Limit your practice swings to one (perhaps two for a tricky shot), and stop wasting everyone’s time.

Copyright © 2013 Linda Miller. All rights reserved.