Golf Rule 14, Striking the Ball – Simplified Version
14-1. Players must strike at the ball with the clubhead rather than pushing it, scraping it or moving it with other non-striking actions. If the player’s downswing is stopped or altered by an outside agency (e.g., a tree branch), the swing counts as a stroke. If the player tries to stop his downswing and misses the ball, the stroke does not count; if he hits the ball despite trying to stop, the stroke counts.
Examples: Zack bends down and holes a short putt with the clubhead as though playing a pool shot. He is penalized for pushing (rather than striking at) the ball. Later, Zack taps in using the grip end of his putter. He incurs another penalty for not using the clubhead.
14-2. While hitting the ball, a player can’t have physical assistance or protection from the weather from a partner or caddie. (He can protect himself by, for example, holding an umbrella with one hand while putting with the other.) A player is not allowed to play a shot or putt with a partner or caddie standing on or near an extension of the target line behind the ball.
Exception: If a caddie or partner is on or near the line inadvertently, there’s no penalty.
14-3. Use of artificial or unusual equipment is prohibited during a round if the equipment might help the player swing, measure distance* or other playing conditions, or grip the club. (Gloves and drying or moisturizing agents are permitted, and players are allowed to wrap towels or handkerchiefs around the handle. Yardage books are also allowed.)
Exceptions: Special equipment is allowed if it is used for medical purposes.
Examples: While putting, Gordon holds a golf ball between his left hand and the grip to improve his stroke. He is penalized for using equipment in an unusual manner. He is allowed to do this during a practice stroke, however.
During a round, William swings a specially designed weighted club to stay loose and increase his clubhead speed with his driver. He is breaking the rule by using an artificial device to assist his play. He may, however, swing two or more regular clubs to accomplish the same goals.
Penalty for violating Rule 14-3: Disqualification (match play or stroke play).
*Local rules may be enacted to allow distance measuring equipment such as GPS devices or rangefinders.
14-4. If the club hits the ball more than once during a swing, the shot counts and a penalty stroke is added. If the ball strikes another object (a tree), ricochets and hits the clubhead, no penalty is incurred.
14-5. The golfer is not allowed to hit a moving ball. A player may hit a ball that’s oscillating (being blown by wind, for instance) without penalty.
Exception: If the ball moves after the player starts swinging, there’s no penalty provided the player, caddie or partner didn’t intentionally cause it to move.
14-6. A player is allowed to hit a ball moving in water, within a water hazard, as long as he doesn’t delay his shot to let the movement improve his position.
Penalties for violating Rule 14-5 or 14-6: Match play – loss of hole. Stroke play – two strokes.
14-1. Ball To Be Fairly Struck At
The ball must be fairly struck at with the head of the club and must not be pushed, scraped or spooned.
a. Physical Assistance and Protection from Elements
A player must not make a stroke while accepting physical assistance or protection from the elements.
b. Positioning of Caddie or Partner Behind Ball
A player must not make a stroke with his caddie, his partner or his partner’s caddie positioned on or close to an extension of the line of play or line of putt behind the ball.
14-3. Artificial Devices, Unusual Equipment And Unusual Use Of Equipment
The USGA reserves the right, at any time, to change the Rules relating to artificial devices, unusual equipment and the unusual use of equipment, and to make or change the interpretations relating to these Rules.
A player in doubt as to whether use of an item would constitute a breach of Rule 14-3 should consult the USGA.
A manufacturer should submit to the USGA a sample of an item to be manufactured for a ruling as to whether its use during a stipulated round would cause a player to be in breach of Rule 14-3. The sample becomes the property of the USGA for reference purposes. If a manufacturer fails to submit a sample or, having submitted a sample, fails to await a ruling before manufacturing and/or marketing the item, the manufacturer assumes the risk of a ruling that use of the item would be contrary to the Rules.
14-4. Striking The Ball More Than Once
If a player’s club strikes the ball more than once in the course of a stroke, the player must count the stroke and add a penalty stroke, making two strokes in all.
14-5. Playing Moving Ball
A player must not make a stroke at his ball while it is moving.
14-6. Ball Moving In Water
When a ball is moving in water in a water hazard, the player may, without penalty, make a stroke, but he must not delay making his stroke in order to allow the wind or current to improve the position of the ball. A ball moving in water in a water hazard may be lifted if the player elects to invoke Rule 26.