Reprinted from Golf Canada Website:
A few months ago, as we watched The Players Championship at Sawgrass and witnessed Kevin Na’s swing troubles escalate to the point where he found it almost impossible to “pull the trigger,” we received many questions about what actually constitutes a swing.
For those that missed Na’s unorthodox pre-shot routine it went something like this: He would get over the ball and proceed to take a variety of backswings (waggles), each one seemingly a different length and each one having a slightly different pattern. Some of these waggles actually looked like a full backswing.
This was done in an effort to achieve some level of comfort and balance over the shot – both of which, Na later acknowledged, were things that he was struggling with.
In a few instances, Na looked ready to go. Then, suddenly, he’d take a full swing over top of the ball – and then shout at himself out of his own frustration with his inability to hit the shot.
In addition, it is likely that his fellow competitor (Zach Johnson) had his own moments having to watch this pattern repeat itself over virtually every stroke.
But were these full-swings over the ball strokes?
For those readers that have a solid understanding of the Rules of Golf, it is probably due to the fact that you know your
important facts. Although Na was swinging the club over the ball (and through the hitting area), there was no intention to hit the ball – thus the definition as outlined above was not completed.
This situation is further clarified in the Decisions book with decision 14/1.5, which states that, should a player decide during the downswing that he doesn’t want to hit the ball and intentionally swings over top of the ball (even though the club has travelled past the ball), he is not considered to have made a stroke.
This ruling doesn’t get you off the hook for a “whiff ” – as the decision further indicates that if there is any doubt as to whether the player did this intentionally, it’ll be resolved against the player! So, if your intent is there, but you just miss the ball, then it’s a stroke.
What about a situation where a player accidentally knocks the ball off the tee (on the teeing ground, by waggling the club or otherwise)? We’ve all seen it happen and some of you probably shouted “one!” to your fellow-competitor or opponent right after.
Well, it’s not “one.” Looking at our definition, provided the player had no intention of hitting the ball, there is no stroke. Considering that a ball is not “in-play” (another topic for another day), until a stroke is made from the teeing ground, there is no penalty and the player can re-tee the ball.
The Decisions book is a great resource for a lot of these situations. To pick up a current copy and receive your Golf Canada member discount, visit Golf Canada’s E-store at golfcanada.ca/shop. There are hundreds of golf decisions and rulings. Must reading for every golf fan!
DEFINITION OF A STROKE:
THE FORWARD MOVEMENT OF THE CLUB WITH THE INTENTION OF STRIKING AT AND MOVING THE BALL , BUT IF A PLAYER CHECKS HIS DOWNSWING VOLUNTARILY BEFORE THE CLUBHEAD REACHES THE BALL HE HAS NOT MADE A STROKE.