A player, intending to play in a certain direction, takes a practice backswing for a stroke in that direction. He then breaks a branch that was impeding his backswing. The player then decides to play in a different direction. The area of his intended swing for a stroke in this new direction was not improved by the breaking of the branch. In such circumstances would the player incur a penalty?
Yes. The player was in breach of Rule 13-2 as soon as he improved the area of the originally intended swing. The penalty is not avoided if he subsequently plays in another direction, even if the breaking of the branch had no effect on the area of the swing for a stroke in the new direction.