Rules Guy: My practice swing ripped hanging moss off a tree. That a penalty?

A view of a tree with Spanish moss hanging down

What do the rules say about dislodging moss from a tree on your practice swing?

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The Rules of Golf are tricky! Thankfully, we’ve got the guru. Our Rules Guy knows the book front to back. Got a question? He’s got all the answers.

Is it a penalty if, during my practice swing, I dislodge some moss hanging from a tree, but not connected to it? —Tom Rosati, Boynton Beach, FL

Ah, moss. So lovely. So soothing. And so easy to think of as something detached, like a loose impediment, such that dislodging it and improving your area of intended swing wouldn’t be a problem.

Alas and alack, that’s wrong. (As wrong as thinking that Spanish moss is a moss, when in fact it’s a bromeliad — a perennial herb in the pineapple family.)

Under Rule 8.1, you’d get the general penalty of two strokes in stroke play and loss of hole in match play if this dislodging improves one of your conditions affecting the stroke.

For more tree-related guidance from our guru, read on …

golf ball in tree
Rules Guy: Can you take free relief if your ball lodges into a tree marked as ground under repair?
By: Rules Guy

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.

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