Strike it strait-laced or smack it snooker-style into the hole? Our Rules of Golf expert explains what you’re allowed to do when making a stroke

I can spend hours watching those trick shots on the internet. They flick them, scoop, push, smack – it’s quite incredible what they can do with a club, a golf ball, and a bit of practice.

But, as entertaining as they are, you probably wouldn’t take many of those shots to the course with you.

That’s because the Rules of Golf are pretty strict on how you can make a stroke and what’s out of bounds – if you’ll excuse the pun.

It’s all laid out in Rule 10.1a, so let’s get stuck in.

What is a stroke?

Let’s take a detour first to the definitions and remind you what constitutes a stroke. It is the “forward movement of the club made to strike the ball”.

What do we have to do when making a stroke?

You’ve got to fairly strike at the ball with the head of the club. Rule 10.1a adds that this needs to be done in such a way where there is “only momentary contact between the club and the ball”.

Pushes, scrapes, and scoops? They are all out and you’ll get the general penalty (two strokes or loss of hole in match play) if you do one of these.

What if I hit the ball more than once?

Ah, the old dreaded double hit. This used to come with a sanction attached before the 2019 Rules of Golf came into effect. These days, if it’s accidental, it’s of no consequence whether your club hits the ball more than once. It counts as a single stroke and there is no penalty.

What is a push, a scrape, or a scoop?

You can probably guess but the Rules – and specifically an interpretation to Rule 10.1a – do it for you. It gives three examples, one for each of our specific ‘don’t do these’ moments.

So here’s a push: A player holes a short putt by hitting the ball with the bottom of the clubhead, using a motion similar to that in billiards.

This is a scrape: Moving a club along the ground and pulling it towards you.

And, last but not least, the scoop: Sliding a club underneath and “very close to the ball” before lifting and moving it by using a “forward and upward motion”. All clear?

What can you use to ‘fairly strike a ball’?

After outlining all of those things you can’t do, what is allowed? Here’s where another interpretation to Rule 10.1a is enlightening.

“In fairly striking a ball, any part of the clubhead may be used, including the toe, heel and back of the clubhead.”

Can something else get in the way of club and ball during a stroke?

This could be a Rules of Golf explained column on its own. This is found in yet another interpretation to Rule 10.1a and It’s a lot of fun.

In the first LIV Golf Invitational at Centurion, with his ball up against a boundary, Phil Mickelson asked the referee if he could hit the fence to move the ball. The answer was that he could.

He decided against it, but he’d referenced a little-known part of the Rules that says that, to fairly strike a ball, the clubhead doesn’t necessarily have to make contact with it.

So if you’re ball is in bounds but up against Phil’s boundary, for example, you can step out of bounds and clatter the fence to shift it.

It might make a mess of your club, and who knows what it will do to your score, but you won’t have breached the rules.

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