We’ve all been there. A bad lay that leads to a tricky shot leaves you scratching your head as to how you managed to hit the ball twice. Best case you find your ball and incur no penalty. Worst case, you lose it and have to take relief. Not only is this extremely embarrassing for most golfers, it can cost you a game.
Today we’re going to explain the double hit, the rules surrounding it, and give you some tips on how you can avoid it.
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What is a Double Hit in Golf?
A double hit is when you hit the ball a second time after the initial strike. Whether it’s a tough lie or bad technique, double hits can occur, although they are fairly uncommon. They are most often caused by flipping the clubhead past your hands with your wrists. As you scoop under the ball and the ball pops up, your clubhead can hit it again as it’s racing past your hands. Bad lies such as rough, creek beds and severe uphill lies can be prime areas for this to occur. If this happens to you don’t sweat it, touring pros aren’t immune either. During a tour competition in Abu Dhabi Phil Mickelson tried to hit right handed out of a bad lie in some bushes and double struck the club. It’s an ugly mistake that can really get you off track, but know that you’re not alone.
What the Golf Rules Used to Say About a Double Hit
Double hits used to be a much bigger deal than they are now. Just a few years ago, the rules assigned a stroke penalty to double hits.
The old double hit rules according to USGA Rule 14-4:
- If a player strikes the ball more than once during a stroke, the player must count the additional strokes in their score
- The player must add a penalty stroke
What the Golf Rules Currently Say About a Double Hit
Thanks to some much needed rule changes in 2019, the rules no longer penalize players for double hits if they are accidental.
The current double rules according to USGA Rule 10.1a:
- The player must fairly strike at the ball with the head of the club such that there is only momentary contact between the club and the ball and must not push, scrape or scoop the ball.
- If the player’s club accidentally hits the ball more than once, there has been only one stroke and there is no penalty.
Am I Allowed to Hit a Moving Golf Ball?
The short answer is no. Golf rule 10.1d explicitly states that:
- Players are not allowed to hit a moving ball
- A ball in play is “moving” when it is not at rest on a spot.
- If a ball that has come to rest is wobbling (sometimes referred to as oscillating) but stays on or returns to its original spot, it is treated as being at rest and is not a moving ball.
If you purposely hit a moving ball, thereby creating a double hit, you’ll incur a one stroke penalty.
Exceptions to The Moving Ball Rule
There are a few exceptions to the moving ball rule. These are covered under rules 9.1b and 6.2b:
- Ball Begins to Move Only after Player Begins Backswing for Stroke: Making a stroke at a moving ball in this situation is covered by Rule 9.1b, not by this Rule.
- Ball Falling Off Tee: Making a stroke at a ball falling off a tee is covered by Rule 6.2b(5), not by this Rule.
- Ball Moving in Water: When a ball is moving in temporary water or in water in a penalty area:
- The player may make a stroke at the moving ball without penalty,
- The player may take relief under Rule 16.1 or 17, and may lift the moving ball.
How to Avoid a Double Strike
Even though accidental double hits are no longer associated with stroke penalties, it’s often better just to avoid the situation altogether. Below are some steps you can take to avoid a stroke penalty and experience smoother play.
- The first step is to make sure you don’t take too much loft where the ball could easily just roll up the clubface. If you would normally use a sand wedge for instance, you would probably be way better off using a pitching wedge or 9 iron.
- Next, lean onto your front foot and stay over your front foot. If you back up or fall back through the strike it makes it much easier to scoop underneath it and hit it again.
- Last, focus on hitting down with a descending blow and keeping your hands well ahead of the clubhead. This way it won’t catch up to the ball after impact.
Knowing the rules regarding a double hit, and more importantly how to avoid it can iron out your golf game, help you play faster, and have a better time out on the course.