Does your putting stroke need to include a backswing? rules guy

What do the rules say about putting the putter on the ground on the backswing?

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The rules of golf are tricky! Luckily we have the guru. Our Rules Guy knows the book cover to cover. Do you have a question? He has all the answers.

When putting, after I’ve completed my backswing, can I rest the clubhead on the ground for a split second before striking the forward stroke? Can I completely eliminate the backswing and begin my forward swing after placing the clubhead behind the ball, either on the ground or hovering in the air? My buddies say they’ve never seen anyone do it, so it must be illegal. – Ed Chapman, via email

Ed, we cheered when we read your question. Rules Guy believes if you’ve never seen anyone do anything on tour, there’s a reason it’s IT. DOES. NOT. WORK.

This is of course a separate issue from legality. The rules require you not to push, scrape, or scoop the ball. Hitting shots like the ones you describe without a traditional backswing doesn’t automatically result in any of these illegal acts, but they do increase the odds. The key is that you must hit the ball fairly with the clubhead so that there is only brief contact between the club and the ball.

If you do that, you are on the safe side. If not, you receive the general penalty of two strokes in stroke play and loss of a hole in match play for breaking Rule 10.1a (and the stroke itself counts regardless of the result).

Ball rolls into the hole

Rules Guy: Is It Legal to Use a Hockey-Style Grip When Putting?


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for more putting green guides from our guru, read on…

Now that it’s legal to putt with the flagstick, is there a penalty if the player’s putter touches the stick after a short putt? Does it make a difference if the ball goes in or not, or if it was intentional or not? What about a practice shot? I know quite a few people who do this and I would like to know what is legal and what is not. — Bob Kirch, via email

The clink of a ball hitting a flagpole used to be as rare as chicken teeth. Nowadays it’s as commonplace as a chicken cackling.

Rules Guy can’t say if the sound of a club hitting club is all that convincing – it seems to unsettle us more than it helps – but he can say it’s perfectly legal, whether on a practice shot or a real one blow.


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As a four-year-old member of Columbia’s first class of female collegiate golfers, Jessica can outperform anyone on the pole top. She can also overtake them in the office, where she is primarily responsible for producing print and online features and overseeing large special projects such as the first Style issue of GOLF, which was released in February 2018. Her original interview series, A Round With, debuted in November 2015 and has appeared in both magazine and video form on Does your putting stroke need to include a backswing? rules guy

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