What Is a Double Hit and Is There a Penalty?

A "double hit" is an embarrassing thing that rarely happens at the top levels of the game, and isn't all that common for recreational golfers either. But it happens. And when a double hit does happen, what, exactly, is taking place? And is there a penalty?

"Double hit" means striking the golf ball twice with your golf club on the same swing. You swing your club and make contact with the ball, and then, on your follow-through, your club makes a second contact with the golf ball.

Usually when your club makes contact with the ball, the ball shoots off and is well ahead of your club by the time your follow-through ends. So clearly, if your club makes a second contact with the ball, something has gone wrong with your swing.

Double hits are most-common in situations where the golf ball gets popped up in front of the golfer. Picture a very fluffy lie where the ball is sitting way up on some grass, the clubhead sweeps under the ball and the ball lazily pops up into the air but barely moves forward. That's a situation that might result in a double hit.

Others include hitting the ball very fat (hitting the ground well behind the ball); or bunker shots in which the golfer knocks the ball into the facing of the bunker, causing the ball to pop up in front of the golfer and be contacted a second time on the follow-through. Chip shots are another danger area for double hits. Of course, there are many other situations in which a double hit is possible.

Here is a Hank Haney instruction video that addresses double-hitting on chip shots with a celebrity student:

Is There a Penalty for a Double Hit?

No, not for an accidental double hit. You just play the ball where it comes to rest. There used to be a penalty for double hits, but since the rules revisions that went into effect in 2019, the USGA and R&A have said that the poor outcome that almost always accompanies a double hit is penalty enough. Just count the stroke.

In his instructional book Golf for Dummies (affiliate link), Gary McCord told of watching an amateur pro-am partner double hit and the poor result: "I was playing a tournament when one of the amateurs, standing near the condos surrounding the course, hit a chip shot. ... He hit the ball a little fat, the ball went up in the air slowly, and his club accelerated and hit the ball again at eye level. The ball went over his head, out of bounds, and into the swimming pool."

But so long as the double hit is accidental, even if the shot turns out great there is no penalty — it's just one stroke and play the ball as it lies.

An intentional double hit, however, is definitely penalized: The first contact of an intentional double hit is one stroke, the second contact counts as a second stroke, and there is a two-stroke penalty for striking a moving golf ball. So don't think the removal of the penalty for an accidental double hit is some kind of loophole.

Do Pros Commit Double Hits?

The double hit is a rare sight on pro golf tours, but they definitely do happen.

Perhaps the most-famous double hit in golf history is T.C. Chen's during the final round of the 1985 U.S. Open. Chen had a four-stroke lead when, attempting to chip out of thick rough by the fifth green, his club struck the ball a second time on his follow-through. At the time there was a penalty for a double hit, and Chen wound up scoring 8 on the hole. He finished the tournament in second place, one stroke behind the winner. And his nickname from then on was "Two-Chip": T.C. "Two-Chip" Chen.

The video at the top of the page provides a good look at a double hit that happened on the Champions Tour. The announcers discuss the penalty, just remember that today no penalty applies.

Related articles:

Detroit Free Press. "Chen's Monster," June 11, 1996, via newspapers.com, https://www.newspapers.com/article/detroit-free-press/92444753/
McCord, Gary. Golf for Dummies*, "Double the chip, double the trouble," Wiley Publishing Inc., 2011
The Rules of Golf. Rule 10-1a, "Making a Stroke," R&A, https://www.randa.org/rog/the-rules-of-golf/rule-10#10_1a
Shackelford, Geoff. "Intentional double-hitters beware: Penalties await!" Golfweek.com, https://golfweek.usatoday.com/2019/01/16/intentional-golf-double-hitters-beware-penalties-await-under-new-rules-of-golf/
USGA. "No penalty for double hit," https://www.usga.org/content/dam/usga/pdf/2019/rules/2019_RulesModenization_Double-Hit.pdf
(*affiliate link, commissions earned)

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