Accidently hitting my ball during my practice stroke as happened maybe once or twice over the years, but I do not remember it happening to me. However, I won a golf tournament because my opponent did this on the last hole of play. It was a very small local military event and nothing to brag about it for sure. Regardless, I was shocked to see him do this and under the old rules, it was a 1 stroke penalty. Under the new rules, a player can replace their ball without penalty because intent is a factor guiding the new rules. Matthew Wolff found this our a few short days ago.
Watching the video, I noticed that Wolff was take a practice swing very close to his ball. I realize that most golfers do this, however he was just a bit too close.
Personally, I have my putter about an inch or two from the ball when making my practice swing on the green (even farther when in the fairway or on the tee box). I do not find any value to be so close that I might accidently contact my ball. The read will be the same and all I am doing is working on speed, so being next to the ball is not as critical for my putting stroke. I developed this technique because I did have a fear of accidently contacting the ball while practicing. Well, under the new rules, that fear is unfounded and if I wanted to could move my putter head a bit closer to the ball when practicing.
The new rule is as follows:
On the Putting Green: Just as in the teeing area, the Rules are lenient if this occurs on the putting green. If you strike and move your ball with a practice swing on the putting green (or accidentally cause your ball to move in any other way), you can simply replace your ball on its original spot without penalty and play on. This is covered under Rule 13.1d(1).https://www.usga.org/content/usga/home-page/articles/2019/04/golf-rules-hitting-ball-with-practice-swing-zach-johnson-masters.html
I bet Matthew Wolff was happy about the rule change. I think this is a good rule because intent is an important aspect of any golf shot. The fact that a player commits an mental error (and it is a mental error) by accidently hitting their ball during a practice swing should not be penalized. There was no intent to make a shot and as such should ( and is not ) counted.
I think most amateurs playing a friendly would automatically replace their ball without penalty whether they know this rule or not. Most groups are reasonable and can easily identify the intent of their playing partners. This is a common sense rule change that I fully support. How about you?
I am a grateful golfer! See you on the links!