Friday, 4 June 2010

Striking a Moving Ball

Have you ever seen a player miss a short putt and in frustration tap the ball into the hole before it has come to rest? And did you realise that this incurs a penalty of two strokes in stroke play, or loss of hole in match play? Rule 14-5 states that a player must not make a stroke at his ball while it is moving.

However, this same Rule goes on to list three exceptional circumstances when a player is permitted to make a stroke at a moving ball;
a) When a ball is falling off a tee on the teeing ground (Rule 11-3). The reason for this is that a ball is not in play until a stroke has been made at it on the teeing ground. However, if a player makes a stroke at a teed ball but misses it altogether (a fresh air, or whiff), addresses the ball again and then accidentally knocks it off the tee, they do incur a penalty, because as soon as they made their first stroke at the ball, it was in play even though they did not move it. When a ball in play moves after it has been addressed, the player incurs a penalty stroke and is obliged to replace their ball (Rule 18-2b).

b) When a player strikes their ball more than once (e.g. when playing out of a bunker or rough and the club catches up with the ball hitting it again), there is no additional penalty for striking a moving ball but off course a penalty is incurred under Rule 14-4 (see my previous blog on this subject).

c) When a ball is moving in water in a water hazard, the player may, without penalty, make their stroke at it, but they must not delay the stroke in order to allow the wind or current to improve the position of the ball (Rule 14-6).
In my experience many golfers think that there is no penalty if their ball moves as they are making a stroke at it through the green. To understand the ruling here you need to read the wording of Rule 14-4 carefully. It states;
"When the ball begins to move only after the player has begun the stroke or the backward movement of his club for the stroke, he incurs no penalty under this Rule for playing a moving ball, but he is not exempt from any penalty under the following Rules:
  • Ball at rest moved by player - Rule 18-2a
  • Ball at rest moving after address - Rule 18-2b"
So, for example, in playing a stroke from the fairway or the rough, if a player has completed their address (i.e. taken their stance and also grounded their club) and the ball moves just as they start their backswing, they do incur a penalty. Decision 14-5/1 explains;
“Q. A player's ball starts moving during his backswing and he strikes the ball while it is still moving. What is the ruling?
A. There is no penalty under Rule 14-5 because the ball began to move after the player had begun his backswing. However, if the player had caused the ball to move or had addressed it, he incurred a penalty stroke — Rule 18-2a or -2b.”
It is for this reason that I always advise players not to ground their club before making a stroke on the putting green on a windy day, or when their ball is sitting on long grass in a situation where their ball could move due to gravity. Provided they have not grounded their club, they will not incur any penalty if their ball moves as they are making their stroke and they must play their ball from where the wind or gravity moves it. You may already have heard my mantra in this respect; if the player accidentally moves the ball there is a one stroke penalty and the ball must be replaced, if God moves the ball there is no penalty and you play it from where it comes to rest.

Understanding the Rules can be as important to your game as understanding your swing,

Barry Rhodes

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12 comments:

Anonymous said...

What happens if the thick grass moves as you address your ball, but your ball doesn't move?

Barry Rhodes said...

Anonymous,

I am not sure that I understand your question. If the ball does not move there can be no penalty. However, remember that a ball is deemed to have 'moved' if it leaves its position and comes to rest in any other place. So, if it settles down into the long grass as you ground your club behind it and it does not return to where it was, then you are deemed to have moved it and incur the penalty of one stroke, whether or not you continue your stroke.

The moral is if you don't ground your club in long grass you are less likely to cause your ball to move.

Barry

Anonymous said...

Ball on the fairway is moved by say wind or worm and at top of your backswing so you do not complete the stroke. Does this incur a penalty?

Barry Rhodes said...

Anonymous,

As I wrote above, if the player has addressed the ball (i.e. taken their stance and grounded their club) and the ball moves then they incur a penalty of one stroke. If they continue with the stroke and strike the ball they must play their next stroke from where the ball comes to rest. If they abort their stroke they still incur the penalty and must replace their ball, or the penalty increases to two strokes, as when they make their next stroke they will have played from the wrong place (Rule 20-7). There is one proviso. On a windy day savvy players do not ground their club before they make their stroke, so they have not completed addressing their ball. In this circumstance the player does not incur a penalty and they must play the ball from where it is moved to by the wind.

Note that I would not be surprised if this Rule 18-2b is changed at the four-yearly revision of the Rules, which will be announced at the end of this year.

Barry

Anonymous said...

It's time to update this one as your prediction above was correct.

Barry Rhodes said...

Anonymous,

Yes, anyone who has read this far should now go to my more current blog entries on this subject; Main Changes to the Rules of Golf 1996 - 2012 (February 5th, 2012); Addressing the Ball – Update from R&A / USGA (April 13th, 2012); and Ball Moving After Address – Rule 18-2b (April 20th, 2012).

Regards,

Barry

Anonymous said...

A player attempts a short put for par; thinks it is missing the hole and in frustration plays at the moving ball with his putter to guide it into the hole. However, the player's putter does not make contact with the ball and it falls in anyway. Has the player incurred any penalty, or did he make his par?

Barry Rhodes said...

Anonymous,

This is a tricky one, but in my opinion this part of the answer to Decision 1-2/4 is relevant;

"....Rule 1-2 was the applicable Rule because the player took an action with the intent to influence the movement of the ball. In match play, he lost the hole. In stroke play, he incurred a penalty of two strokes and must play the ball from where it came to rest; if the ball was holed, the player completed play of the hole with his last stroke and must apply the two-stroke penalty under Rule 1-2."

Barry

Anonymous said...

Hi Barry,
I have a quick question regarding the ball moving during the backswing. Decision 14-5/1 states that if the player has caused the ball to move, he incurs a penalty stroke. So, in other words, if it's obvious that the gust of wind moved the ball during the backswing, the player incurs no penalty. Am I correct??

Barry Rhodes said...

Anonymous,

Correct if wind moves a ball during the swing of a stroke there is no penalty. This is true even if the ball is still moving at the time the player strikes it.

Regards,

Barry

Too many details. said...

Carrying on from the last comment if you don't mind. The ball is on the fairway, just on the lip of a divot, the ball has been addressed and the club grounded, then at the top of the backswing the ball drops into the divot (no wind assistance) a penalty or not?

Thanks.

Barry Rhodes said...

Too Many Details,

The question to be asked is whether the player was the cause of their ball moving by any of their actions. If the weight of evidence suggests that they did, then they incur a penalty of one stroke under Rule 18-2. However if it was wind, or some other element that caused the ball to move, there is no penalty. If the player continues with their stroke after the ball starts moving it has to be played from where it comes to rest, but if they aborted their stroke and it was likely that they had caused their ball to move, the ball has to be replaced.

Barry