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Ask for a golf ruling with Cory Armstrong

Q As I was rehearsing my swing for a shot from deep rough, I accidentally hit a ball that was hidden in the grass. I, of course, was startled by the new ball's sudden appearance. After composing myself, I played my original ball and made par. However, I didn't know what to indicate as my score for the hole. Had I made an illegal practice stroke or played a wrong ball? If I was guilty of either breach, I would have to include a two-stroke penalty in stroke play and continue play with my ball, right? What was the correct ruling?

-- Drake (North Myrtle Beach, SC)

A Drake, as long as you had no intention of striking the concealed ball, you were in the clear. It was a practice swing, not a practice stroke. There's a difference. A stroke is the forward movement of the club made with the intention of striking at and moving the ball. Additionally, Decision 7-2/7 also absolved you from penalty for playing a stroke with a wrong ball (Rule 15-3).

Similarly, if you were playing a stroke with your own ball and simultaneously hit an abandoned ball which was hidden underneath yours, Decision 15/2 would not assign a penalty. This could easily happen in a soft bunker. You would need to play your ball where it lies ... and then pocket the abandoned ball if it's a keeper.