While missing a “gimmie” putt is embarrassing, perhaps even more embarrassing is to hit the ball twice with the same swing.
In a match play event at my club in Texas five years ago, I had battled back to win the closing three holes to square my match. My opponent and I both were just short of the green on the first playoff hole, but only 20 feet from the cup. I was away. A putter would have been the easy choice to get the ball close enough for a sure par. However, since my opponent was getting a handicap stroke on the next playoff hole, I selected a wedge, wanting to land the ball just over the fringe and try to put the pressure on him by chipping it in the cup. That’s when I caught the ball on my follow through, hitting it a second time and sending it ricocheting off to the left.
What happened?,” my opponent asked. “I just ‘Chened it’,” I answered, letting him know that a penalty applied. Rule 14-4 is quite clear about such a situation: “If a player’s club strikes the ball more than once in the course of a stroke, the player shall count the stroke and add a penalty stroke, making two strokes in all.” Thus, I was laying four on the green. When I missed my putt for bogey, I conceded his par putt from three feet.
For those who do not remember, T.C. Chen was leading the 1985 U.S. Open at Oakland Hills in the final round by four strokes. His approach on the par 5 fifth hole finished in thick rough about 12 feet off the green with the pin tucked just 12 feet onto the green. Chen’s flop shot with a wedge caught the ball a second time on the follow through, leaving the ball on the fringe. Viably shaken since he now laid five, Chin took three more strokes for an eight. Chen ended up losing the title to Andy North by a stroke.
While not as embarrassing, but still calling for a penalty is a shot that might strike a tree and come back to hit you as it once did to me in another tournament . On another occasion, a fellow competitor who was riding in a cart with me, hit a tree and it bounced back and hit the golf cart, considered a piece of his equipment. There would have been no penalty if I had happened to be driving it, but I was standing next to him. I think it was Jeff Maggert in the Masters who had a bunker shot come back and hit him. I’ve seen bunker shots roll back and hit the foot of players, too.
Other embarrassing shots? A whiff where you miss the ball entirely—yes I’ve done that when my club got caught by a tree limb when I tried to advance the ball back to the fairway—and the shank, where the ball is hit off the hosel of the iron. At least, there’s no penalty shots involved in these cases.