"One of Golf's Stranger Rules"

During play, other than practice, when can you swing at a ball and it doesn’t count in your score and there is no penalty?

The pair of exceptions to Rule 15-3 state: “There is no penalty if a player makes a stroke at a wrong ball that is moving in water in a water hazard. Any strokes made at a wrong ball moving in water in a water hazard do not count in the (player’s) score.”

So, in order for this unique Rule to come into play a few things must be present:

  1. It must not be your ball, and
  2. The ball must be in water in a water hazard, and
  3. The ball must be moving in water in a water hazard.
  • If the ball is your ball, this Rule does not apply. Count the stroke.
  • If the ball is on the bank of a water hazard (not in water), this Rule does not apply.
  • If the ball is stationary in a water hazard, this Rule does not apply. Go ahead and lift it for identification.
  • If the ball is moving in casual water, this Rule does not apply.

This unique Rule stems from a couple of other Rules.

  • Rule 12-2, Lifting Ball for Identification, guides us in that we may lift our ball to see if it is ours only when it is at rest. Since we cannot lift it while moving, we cannot tell if it is our ball our not; thus no penalty for playing a wrong ball.
  • While Rule 14-5, Playing Moving Ball, normally applies a penalty for playing a moving ball, Rule 14-6, Ball Moving in Water, gives us authority to make a stroke at a moving ball without the penalty.
  • Therefore, no penalty for playing a wrong ball moving in water in a water hazard. 

There is nothing to prevent you from proceeding under any of the applicable options under Rule 26, Water Hazards, (Including Lateral Water Hazards) in this situation. Rule 14-6 gives us the authority to lift a ball moving in water in a water hazard, contrary to Rule 12-2 above, only if the player elects to proceed under Rule 26.

Thankfully, this does not happen every day!

Remember, use the index or the table of contents to find the correct Rule that applies to the situation and follow the Rules of Golf to help yourself to enjoy the game of golf.

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