Had a swipe in the teeing area and the ball has fallen off? Our Rules of Golf expert explains your options

There’s little in golf that makes you feel worse than a whiff. You’ve given the shot due consideration, put your back into it, and it’s found fresh air. Or worse, it’s barely moved off the tee. But once you’ve got over a bit of a red face, have a think about your options under the Rules of Golf.

And, in this spirit, Kay Smith emailed me the following poser: “A player is taking her drive but instead of striking the ball she hits the ground behind the tee.

“The vibrations knock the ball off the tee since she assured me she did not touch the ball. She promptly picked it up and teed the ball up again and took her drive. She then said ‘that is two off the tee’. I challenged this but neither of us was sure what was correct.

“Would this be correct or would that have been three off the tee? Should she have taken her second shot from where the ball landed?”

Rules of Golf explained: Our expert says

This is one that I’ve actually seen happen with my own eyes – rather than just delving through the pages of the book – and the 2019 changes have made this something worth having in your Rules of Golf arsenal.

Firstly, don’t confuse this with accidentally hitting a ball with a practice swing on the tee. In Kay’s question, a stroke – defined as “the forward movement of the club made to strike the ball” – has been made.

What comes next depends on whether the ball in play lies in the teeing area. If it doesn’t, if it’s trickled forward of the markers, then play it as it lies.

If it does, either after a stroke or after taking relief, then Rule 6.2b (6) is going to be of great interest to you.

It says you can “lift or move the ball without penalty” and then play that ball – or another – from “anywhere in the teeing area from a tee or the ground”, including playing the ball as it lies.

A further interpretation, snappily titled ‘Ball That Comes to Rest in Teeing Area Does Not Have to be Played as it Lies’, explains that when a player’s ball is inside the teeing area, they can move it to another spot within that area and can also it tee it up without penalty.

An example sums up everything rather neatly: “A player makes his or her first stroke from the teeing area, barely making contact with the ball, and the ball either comes to rest on the ground within the teeing area or remains on the tee.

“Since the ball is in the teeing area, the player may play the ball as it lies or, even though the ball is in play, may move the ball to any other spot within the teeing area and play from there without penalty.”

That extends to putting the ball back on a tee, or even changing the height of a tee that a ball is already resting upon.

So, going back to the original question, as long as the ball was still in the teeing area, picking it up, putting it back on the tee – and now playing the second – is perfectly fine in the rules.

Have a question for our Rules of Golf expert?

Despite the simplification of the Rules of Golf at the beginning of 2019, there are still some that leave us scratching our heads. And as I’ve passed the R&A’s level 2 rules exam with distinction, I am more than happy to help.

Click here for the full Rules of Golf explained archive and details of how to submit a question to our expert.

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Steve Carroll

A journalist for 23 years, Steve has been immersed in club golf for almost as long. A former captain and committee member, he has passed the Level 3 Rules of Golf exam with distinction having attended the national Tournament Administrators and Referee's Seminar. He has officiated at a host of high-profile tournaments, including Open Regional Qualifying and the PGA Fourball Championship. A member of NCG's Top 100s panel, Steve has a particular love of links golf and is frantically trying to restore his single-figure handicap.

Handicap: 10.9

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