During a recent round my friends and I were talking about golf matches and rules.  Gradually we got onto the topic of “hitting your ball with a practice swing”.  What happens if you do this?  Well, it all depends on where it occurs.

Here’s a short clip of Zach Johnston’s practice swing on the 13th at Augusta in 2019… he really should stand further away from his ball!!!

Zach isn’t the only pro to do that – usually there’s a huge gasp from the crowd, as most people think the shot counts!

Renown former European Tour chief referee John Paramor explains what happens if you accidentally move your ball during a practice swing in different locations on the course. (If you’re short of time, fast forward to 30 seconds).

So, in short:

  • on the tee – no penalty as the ball isn’t in play.  Replace the ball on the tee.
  • on the putting green – no penalty – ball must be placed in its original location.
  • elsewhere – one shot penalty and you must place the ball in its original location.

If you accidentally move your ball marker or drop your ball when you’re placing it on the green, rule 13.1 explains:

No Penalty for Accidental Movement of Ball or Ball-Marker on Putting Green

Under Rule 13.1d(1) examples of actions that are accidental include when:

  • The player takes normal actions near the ball before attempting a stroke, such as practice swings near the ball or addressing the ball by placing the putter on the ground near the ball…

In these examples of accidental movement, the ball or ball-marker must be replaced and there is no penalty to anyone. If the exact spot from where the ball or ball-marker was moved is not known, it must be estimated (Rule 14.2c).


What happens if your opponent putts badly and claims it was a practice swing?