Was it a Stroke or Not?
To get to the bottom of this, let’s start where we usually do, with the applicable definition.
Stroke – a stroke is the forward movement of the club made with the intention of striking at and moving the ball, but if a player checks his downswing voluntarily before the clubhead reaches the ball he has not made a stroke.
You may recall Davis Love accidentally striking his ball with the putter head during a practice swing on the 17th green at the Players Championship years ago. He had no intention to strike the ball and it was ruled as not being a stroke. However, he did incur a penalty under Rule 18-2 for moving his ball in play.
Last week on the PGA Tour, a player tried to stop his swing after hearing a loud noise during his backswing, but was unsuccessful in stopping the clubhead from striking the ball. This was a stroke based upon the guidance in Decision 14/1.5.
On the other hand, you may have seen Kevin Na on the PGA Tour cease his intention to strike the ball on the downswing, and as a result, swing over the top of the ball. This was ruled not to be a stroke, once again, based upon the guidance in Decision 14/1.5.
Yet the most common one of all, has to be the player who tees his ball up on the teeing ground and while addressing the ball, inadvertently knocks it off the tee. That is not a stroke as the player had no intention of striking that ball. Further, since the ball was not yet in play, there is no penalty and the ball may be re-teed without penalty.
Remember, use the definitions, 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.