NCG’s Golfing Glossary: Abnormal Strokes

Like paper money falling about Sepp Blatter's head, this week's phrase abounds in metaphor

Word: Abnormal Strokes


Pronunciation: /æbˈnÉ”·mÉ™l strəʊks/


What I think it means…

Not to be confused with the hilarious 70s sitcom from the US, Diff’rent Strokes, anyone who utters the phrase ‘abnormal stroke’ to me, is like to hear that eponymous phrase: “what you talking about, Willis?”

Because although I don’t know what this phrase means, I can’t imagine it’s going to be good is it?



If we’re going to rule out all the other potential meanings of ’stroke’, we can safely presume the word refers to a golf shot, although what you get up to in your own time is no one’s business, and as long as you do it in the privacy of your own home, I’m not going to judge any ’abnormalities’.

I think the main issue here is to determine what’s an abnormal stroke and what’s normal. Because if I’m honest, I can remember a number of rounds where I’ve hit at least 95 shots which can be described as ’abnormal’.  Hook, slice, shank, scuff – it’s like a who’s who of golfing abominations and abnormalities.


Dictionary definition: A player may not take relief from an abnormal ground condition  if interference would only occur through use of a clearly unreasonable stroke or an unnecessarily abnormal stance, swing or direction of play. (Rule 25-1)


Origins: Northing too exciting, the R&A’s Rules of Golf book is full of ’abnormalities’.


Use it in a sentence:

“I would get relief if I was left-handed! I might just play this shot lefty and claim free relief.”

            “Sorry Willis, that’s an abnormal stroke. You’re scuppered!”


What this actually means: Just like last week, I got this completely wrong.

Say you’re under a tree that’s got a post next to it. You’ve got a tricky lie – perhaps you’re in deep rough – and you don’t fancy taking on the shot. If you were left-handed, that stick would be in your way and you’d be able to take relief, without suffering a penalty drop. Well hang on, why don’t I play left-handed? That way you get the relief. Alternatively, you could aim back towards the tee, so you’d need to be stood on the other side of the ball, and the tree would be interfering with your stance.

Again, technically. You would get free relief – wouldn’t you?

Well no. That friends, is an abnormal stroke, and it ain’t got no place on a golf course.  It’s unreasonable to suggest that you would just ’choose’ to play a shot left-handed, and you certainly wouldn’t choose to shoot back to the tee, so you can’t use that as an excuse.

You’re just going to take your medicine and either hack it out as best you can, or declare the ball unplayable and take a penalty drop (Rule 28).

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