Thursday, January 9, 2014

Ask Linda #773-Practice swing knocks off leaves

Linda, thanks for all your help in the past.
Here's another question that is likely to take your level of expertise to answer:
During a recent game, my drive landed in a wooded area. There was a small window to advance the ball down the fairway, closer to the green. I struck a branch with my practice swing and broke away several leaves. When that happened, I realized the branch would hamper my backswing so elected to hit the ball sideways to the fairway. When I did this, the tree was no longer an issue.
Must I take a penalty for breaking away leaves during the original practice swing even though the missing leaves no longer improved the area of my intended swing?
Thanks again,
Lou from Ontario

Dear Lou,

It’s difficult to answer this question without being there, so I will have to give you a general answer.

If you improved the area of your original intended swing by knocking down the leaves, you cannot avoid penalty (two strokes), even though the improvement has no effect on your new swing [Decision 13-2/24].

The question I cannot answer is whether knocking down the leaves improved the area of swing for your original stroke. If I am reading your question correctly, you probably did not incur a penalty – the branch (not the leaves) interfered with your stroke, and you did not break the branch.

Here is the ruling with regard to knocking down leaves during a practice stroke:
If the tree has just one or two leaves, and you knock them off with your practice swing, you are penalized for improving the area of your intended swing. This is because no leaves remain to provide a distraction when you make your stroke. If your practice swing knocks several leaves off a tree, but many leaves remain in the path of your actual swing, there is no penalty. 

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