Monday, January 18, 2016

Ask Linda #1235-What is the meaning of “push, scrape, or spoon” the ball?

Dear Linda,

In a prior post [Ask Linda #1222-Hold club below grip, posted December 29, 2015] you had a line about a user must make a stroke and not push, scrape or scoop the ball. I have been unable to find a clear definition of push, scrape or scoop. This may seem silly, but how can you push a ball unless you rest the club against the ball and move it forward? Even the smallest distance between the ball and club would mean some sort of stroke. Or is it related to where you are standing in relationship to the line of the putt? And what about scrape? Does that mean the club comes across the ball? But isn't that what you do if you are trying to hook or slice a ball around an obstruction of some sort? And scoop? Isn't that what you naturally do when getting a ball out of a trap?

Lou from Oakland, California

Dear Lou,

The Definition of “Stroke” states simply that the player must move the club forward with the intention to strike and move the ball. Decisions 14-1a/4 and 14-1a/6 imply that a proper stroke requires a backswing (even if it’s a short one). A ball has not been fairly struck unless the contact between the club and the ball (or between the club and whatever might lie between the club and the ball, such as sand, loose impediments, etc.) is momentary.

Pushing, scraping, and spooning all imply starting the clubhead in contact with or very close to the ball, using no backswing, and maintaining lengthy contact with the ball (anything longer than momentary would be considered lengthy). If you’re familiar with shuffleboard, the method of moving the disk forward is a push. The cue may directly touch the disk, or may start slightly behind it, but the forward motion of the cue is a push, and the disk remains in contact with the cue for longer than a moment. If you push the ball with your golf club, your hands will most likely start behind the ball and the clubhead will maintain more than momentary contact with the ball.

Scraping implies placing the clubhead behind the ball and dragging it in the direction you would like it to go. If a player reached over the hole, placed his putter behind the ball, and dragged the putter along the ground while pulling the ball towards the hole, he would be scraping the ball. Again, contact between the clubhead and the ball would be more than momentary.

Spooning would be similar to a field hockey move where the player places the stick behind the ball and flicks it up into the air.

Basically, if the player has not made a backswing, and has had more than momentary contact with the back of the ball as he attempts to hit it, he has pushed, scraped, or spooned the ball, all of which actions are prohibited under Rule 14-1a.

The Rules are trying to tell you that you must swing at the ball. You may not guide the ball in a particular direction, and the contact between the clubhead and the ball must be momentary.

Directly addressing your questions:
(1) It is possible to push a ball, even if the clubhead starts a short distance behind the ball. It is a matter of how long the clubhead remains in contact with the ball. In most cases where the space behind the ball is minimal, the assumption will be that the player has pushed the ball and he will incur a penalty [Decision 14-1a/4].
(2) When you try to hook or slice a ball, you will take a significant backswing and swing at the ball. Contact with the ball will be momentary. These are legal strokes.
(3) A stroke from a bunker is not a scoop. “Scoop” implies placing the club behind the ball and lifting the ball. This is not a legal stroke. A well-executed bunker shot hits the sand, which then propels the ball. There is a backswing and a stroke.

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