A competitor in a women’s event at a small club in Texas took several practice swings in an area defined as a water hazard, causing her fellow competitors to think that she should be penalized two strokes each time. She was so far ahead that was the only chance they had to catch her.
Of course, I got the call to settle the issue and pointed to Decision 1-4/12 which indicated that based on the rule of equity that it would not be appropriate to apply multiple penalties in this particular case where multiple occurrences of the same or similar act results in one rule being breached more than once.
If a fellow competitor had told the lady in question that taking the practice swing and grounding the club in an area defined as a hazard was a violation and she repeated the action then she would have to accept a two-stroke penalty each time she violated the rule.
If she had left the ball in the hazard and taken another practice swing, then multiple penalties would have applied also as the player had made a stroke between the two breaches of the same rule.
The same decision for only one penalty would have been true if a player removed sand on his line of play through the green and also pressed down a replaced divot.
If a single act, like a player’s putt striking two different balls of fellow competitors, causes one rule to be breached more than once, only one two-stroke penalty would apply.
Multiple penalties would apply if different acts resulted in two rules being breached. An example would be four strokes of penalties if a player grounded his club in a hazard and also improved his line of play by bending a tree limb.
Multiple two-stroke penalties would also be the result if different acts resulted in one rule being breached more than once as in the case of a player purposely stepping on the line of another player for the purpose of improving it and then purposely stopping his own ball in motion after it began moving without cause before address.
If two different acts result in two rules being breached, but the second one is a direct consequence of the initial breach–for example, a player’s ball moves prior to address and while it is in motion it is accidently stopped by his club—only a single one-stroke penalty would apply. The player, however, could be penalized two strokes if he did not replace the ball in the case above.
What happens if a player searching for his ball accidentally move it with his foot (one-stroke penalty) and broke a branch off a tree, improving the line of his intended play (a two-stroke penalty)? Multiple penalties do not apply, but he has to take the more severe one. If this had occurred in match play, the player would have lost the hole, the penalty for improving the line of his intended play.