Rules Guy: My club got tangled in tree branches at the top of my swing. Does that count as a stroke?
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My tee shot lands under a tree, and my practice swings tell me I can’t hit a fairway wood due to overhanging branches. I opt for a mid-iron, but on my backswing the club gets tangled in a branch. As I start my downswing, the club stays caught and I complete my swing without a club in my hands. Is that a stroke? I said yes, as I intended to hit the ball. Others said no, because you can’t swing at a ball without a club. — Dave Haggbloom, New Port Richey, Fla.
Dave, you left out the part where everyone fell to the ground in hysterics! Still, you’re in luck.
If the club never moved forward, you never started the downswing — forward movement of the hands without a club is not a stroke.
See definition of stroke: “The forward movement of the club made to strike the ball.”
To repeat: not a stroke, merely hilarious.
For more tree-related guidance from our guru, read on …
If I dislodge leaves or break a branch during my backswing, do I incur a penalty? — Robert Santoli
If a tree falls and no one hears it, is it still a loose impediment? What is the sound of one hand gauging wind direction? We digress.
Rule 8.1b covers actions you’re allowed to take even if you improve one of the conditions affecting your stroke, and you’ll be pleased to learn that there is no penalty in the case of you breaking something that creates an improvement during a backswing for the stroke that you go on to make.
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