Golf Whiff Penalty

Golf Whiff Penalty

Golf can be a challenging game for all players, regardless of experience. Sometimes, even making good contact with the ball can prove detrimental to your score if the ball takes a bad bounce or roll. However, what is really tough to deal with is whiffing entirely, though it happens to even the most seasoned golfers.


The term “whiffing” refers to taking a live swing and failing to make any contact with the ball. Whiffing on a stroke can happen anywhere and anytime on a golf course. More difficult shots such as those in the rough, a bunker, or a hazard area can lead to whiffs, but even a miss off the tee can happen sometimes.

When a player is intentionally trying to hit the ball, and they miss entirely, a one-shot penalty is applied to their score. It does not matter if the ball moves or not; as long as the player was clearly trying to hit it, a stroke will be added to their score. After the penalty is assessed, the penalized player has to continue playing from the same spot.

There are instances when a player can be going in for a live swing, and perhaps they get distracted by a noise or their foot slips, causing them to miss. In those cases, if they pull up from the swing before their down-swing reaches the ball, then no penalty is applied. The critical difference is that they stopped trying to make contact soon enough that the swing does not count towards the score, comparable to a checked swing in baseball. Another part of the rule is that if you are taking practice swings and accidentally hit the ball, a one-stroke penalty is applied, except when hitting off the tee. If you accidentally knock the ball off the tee, you can simply reset it on the tee and move forward with your turn.


In golf, the result of a whiff is consistent across most levels of play. If you try to hit the ball and miss, you are given a one-stroke penalty and then move forward with your turn from the same spot. If you try to take a practice stroke and hit the ball accidentally, you are also given a one-stroke penalty, the ball is placed back where it was, and you move forward with your turn. 


  • A player is taking practice strokes as they prepare for a swing off the fairway. The player hits their ball by accident, and it rolls a few yards away. They are given a one-stroke penalty and retake the shot from the same spot.
  • A player is ready for a drive off the tee; they take a big swing and miss. However, the ball never moves. They are given a one-stroke penalty and must try again.
  • A player is taking a shot out of the rough and they slip mid-stroke. They pull off their swing before contacting the ball. They are not given a penalty and proceed with their turn.

Similar Penalties to a Whiff Penalty


What is a whiff penalty in golf?

A whiff penalty in golf occurs whenever a player is trying to make contact with the ball during their swing and they completely miss. Even if the ball does not move, that player is given a penalty for trying and failing to make contact. The penalty is a one-stroke addition to their scorecard before they can try again to hit the ball. 

What are the consequences of a whiff penalty in golf?

The consequence for whiffing is simple and straightforward. If you are intentionally trying to hit your ball on a swing and you miss entirely or whiff, then a one-stroke penalty is applied to your score, and you move forward with your turn. The same is true if you try to take a practice swing and accidentally hit your ball.

Does a practice swing that accidentally hits the ball count as a penalty?

Yes, a practice swing that accidentally hits the ball counts as a penalty. If a player is taking practice swings when getting ready for your shot and you accidentally hit the ball, a one-stroke penalty is applied to their score, and then the ball is reset to its previous position. At that point, they can move forward with their turn. If they are getting ready to tee off and they accidentally knock their ball off the tee, however there is no penalty, and they simply re-tee and play.