Rules Clarifications

When is a swing a stroke on the Tee Ground or elsewhere?

Situation One:

A player addresses (defined as taking stance and grounding) a teed ball on the teeing ground. The ball falls off the tee for some reason or is knocked off the tee by the player accidentally. The player may the ball without penalty as the ball is not "in play" (defined as occurring as soon as the player has made a stroke at the ball on the teeing ground).
Rule 11-3

Situation Two:

A player addresses a teed ball on the teeing ground. The player makes a stroke at the ball (defined as the forward movement of the club made with the intention of striking at and moving the ball). No matter whether the ball remains on the tee, falls off the tee without being struck by the club, or is struck by the club but still remains on the tee ground; the ball is now "in play". The stroke is counted.

Option 1: You can play the ball where it lies; you will be hitting your second shot.
Rule 11-3

Option 2: You decide to proceed according the "unplayable lie" rule (can be declared anywhere on the course except if the ball is in a water hazard) and retee the ball. Now there is a one stoke penalty. You will be hitting your third shot.
Rule 28

We know that if we take a swing at the ball with intention to hit it, and then miss it entirely, we are charged with a stroke.

So when is a swing not a stroke?

Consider two situations.

  1. A player's ball lies in tall grass. The player starts her downswing and the club is deflected by the grass and the ball is untouched by the club during the swing.

  2. A player is distracted by some outside force and takes an abnormal complete swing at the ball. Tiger Woods, as seen on television, has been able to stop (due to some distraction)the downward motion of his swing on the teeing ground prior to contact with the ball.

In the first situation, the player has full intention to strike the ball and move it. The fact that the grass deflected the club does not matter. The stroke is counted. Another point to remember; if a stroke is made on the teeing ground, the player may not adjust the tee or ball as the ball is in play after a stroke.
(Rule 14 - Decision 14/1)

In the second situation, the player has recognized that he/she is not prepared to strike at the ball; the swing is unintentional. Therefore the second condition of the definition has not been satisfied. There is no stroke. However, if there is any doubt that intention ceased during the downswing, the decision is resolved against the player.
(Rule 14 - Decision 14/2)

Karen McCloskey