Dear Rules Guy: During a recent round, the ball fell off the tee as I started my downswing. Because I couldn't stop the clubhead's momentum, I struck the tee but not the ball. Am I penalized?
-- Ron Hackleman, via e-mail
Few have that Tiger-like ability to halt their downswing before reaching the hitting zone. (Me? I have so little clubhead speed that I can stop my swing during contact.) As to your question: No, you're not penalized, but the swing counts, and you must play the ball as it lies. Had your ball fallen off its perch during address, you could have just re-teed -- no swing, no penalty. However, per Rule 11-3, if you make a stroke at the ball, the stroke counts -- whether the ball was moving or not -- but there's no penalty. If you'd been able to stop the clubhead mid-downswing, you could have simply re-teed, but since you completed a stroke, you're hitting your second shot from the teebox.