January 01, 2022

Rules of Golf - Multiple Penalties

Written by:  Darin Green, Senior Director of Rules & Competitions

A player’s ball lies under a tree and as he is assessing his shot selection he reaches up, breaks, and removes a branch that would have interfered with his backswing. About thirty seconds later, he breaks off another branch that would have interfered with his swing. The player makes a stroke at the ball and ball only moves a few feet forward. Before making another stroke, he breaks off another branch and then chips his ball out to the fairway.

In the situation above, how many penalty strokes did the player incur? (Playing stroke play)

Rule 8.1 tells us that the player must not improve the conditions affecting the stroke, which include the area of the player’s intended swing. The player breached this Rule three separate times in the situation above. So does the player incur three separate two-stroke penalties? The answer is no, the player incurs two separate two-stroke penalties.

We must look at Rule 1.3c(4).  This Rule explains that if a player breaches the same Rule more than once before an intervening event happens the player only receives the penalty once. (An intervening event is the player making a stroke or being informed of the Rule breach.) Therefore, in the situation above, the player only receives one two-stroke penalty for the first and second time he broke a branch and he receives one more two-stroke penalty for the third time he broke a branch off because there was an intervening event (stroke) between the second and third branch breaking.

Be careful out there, penalties can add up quickly!

Happy New Year!

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