If you swing and miss are you adding one to your score? Our Rules of Golf expert gets into a scenario that’s been giving plenty of you a headache

Who doesn’t love a rumour? It starts off as one thing and by the time it’s been round the block it’s become something else entirely. Firstly, I received a couple of emails circulating the idea that “an air shot in golf does not count”. Then this popped into NCG’s Twitter feed at the weekend…

It’s easy to understand the confusion. Pop “do air shots count in golf?” into Google and you’ll get two very contradictory explanations. One of those is worryingly incorrect.

So for any of you that are unsure, let’s see if we can sort this out…

Air shot in golf: Our Rules of Golf expert says…

A stroke is defined in the Rules as the “forward movement of the club made to strike the ball”.

If you start the downswing with a club, and you intend to hit the ball, it counts as a stroke whether you rip it down the fairway or swing and miss.

Let’s now turn to Adam’s question about whether the ball is in play when you’ve whiffed one on the tee as I’ve seen this come up in several other places.

I think the confusion here surrounds what you believe “in play” to be. You think it’s when you’ve HIT the ball, right?

The definitions says a ball first becomes in play on a hole “when the player makes a stroke at it from inside the teeing area”.

Rule 6.2b (5) also says whether a ball is teed, or on the ground, when starting a hole – or if you’re playing again from the teeing area under a Rule – “the ball is not in play until the player makes a stroke at it”.

Remember that definition of stroke? So even though you failed to make contact with the ball, it is in play because you carried out that “forward movement of the club made to strike the ball”.

You’re hitting your second. And yes, the ball can remain on the tee peg under Rule 6.2b (6).

What isn’t a stroke? You already know if you strike a ball accidentally while making a practice swing, or while preparing to take a shot, it’s not a stroke.

You can also decide during the downswing not to strike the ball and either deliberately stop the clubhead before it makes contact or deliberately miss it.

But don’t try any funny business with this after you’ve gone after one and performed a neat double pike and half twist.

It’s usually pretty obvious to everyone whether you were trying to hit it or not.

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.

If you’ve sent me an email and are yet to hear back from me, I will try to answer your query. I have been inundated with requests in recent and am working hard to try and get through them.

I’ve also received a number of emails from players hoping I can intervene in a club rules dispute. For fairly obvious reasons, I can’t do that and would direct those players either to their county or to the rules department at the R&A for a definitive judgement.

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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