Bunker do’s and dont’sInto the Rough > Golf Rules Q&A
Published 09/12/2013 06:19:00
Many years ago I had the distinct pleasure and honour of playing Royal Lytham and St Annes, that fine links course just outside Blackpool. Lytham has for many years been a regular venue on the Open roster and is considered one of the tougher tests in golf. A number of aspects set it apart. Unusually, it starts with a par three, the clubhouse is only a few metres from the back of the green of the 18th hole, and there are 179 bunkers on the course. To put this in context, Pecanwood is South Africa's most bunkered course, I believe, and there are only some 108 bunkers there.
When I first read that there were approximately 1,000 bunkers at Whistling Straits I was sure someone had got the noughts wrong. Well, anyone who saw the coverage of the recent US PGA Championship will confirm that it certainly was not a case of a bunker here and a bunker there, but simply that there were bunkers everywhere! And so to my topic for the week the do's and don'ts from a rules perspective with regard to bunkers:
- A player is prohibited from testing the condition of the bunker and he is not allowed to touch the ground with his hand or a club before making his stroke. This also means he cannot touch the sand when taking his backswing. However, he is allowed to fairly take his stance.
- Loose impediments lying in or touching the hazard may not be moved. This includes stones, even though readers may have observed tour players removing stones from bunkers. There is a special local rule in play for professional tournaments only.
- An exception to the rule allows a player to touch the ground as a result of or to prevent falling, in removing an obstruction and in measuring or retrieving a ball. A player is also allowed to place his clubs or a rake in a hazard before playing his stroke. The important word here is place anything that constitutes "testing" of the condition of the bunker would be a breach.
- After making a stroke the player or his caddie may smooth the sand, even if the ball is still in the hazard, provided that nothing is done to improve the lie of the ball or assist the player in his subsequent play of the hole.
- Movable obstructions such as plastic bags, rakes, drinks cans etc, may be removed from the bunker without penalty.
- If a ball is declared unplayable in a bunker and the player decides to take the two clublength option, he must drop within the bunker. This also applies if he elects to keep the ball between himself and the hole and drop on the extension of that line. Obviously, if he takes the stroke and distance option he can drop outside the bunker.
- If a player plays a stroke from a bunker and fails to get the ball out and swings his club into the sand, even though he does not affect his new lie, he is in breach of the rule.
- Building a stance is not allowed, so if you are up against the face you cannot create a ledge to stand on to keep your balance.
- You are entitled to the lie and line of play you had when the ball came to rest so if, as a result of another player¹s stroke, either of these are altered, you may recreate the original position.
- The rules provide that a wrong ball cannot be played from a hazard, so if its discovered that you played the wrong ball out of the hazard, that stroke and any subsequent shots with that ball are cancelled and you can return to the bunker and play the right ball with no penalty.
- A final do, and this has nothing to do with the rules but rather a general tip on course management: make your first objective to get out of the bunker safely and then worry about how close to the pin you might hit it
1. This includes stones, even though readers may have observed tour players removing stones from bunkers. There is a special local rule in play for professional tournaments only.
That is not the case, any committee may utilize it. Most clubs in the UK do.
comment by Doug Howell - 08/01/2015 13:19
2. The rules provide that a wrong ball cannot be played from a hazard, so if its discovered that you played the wrong ball out of the hazard, that stroke and any subsequent shots with that ball are cancelled and you can return to the bunker and play the right ball with no penalty.
The rule was changed a few years ago.
Bunkers are the same as everywhere else
comment by Doug Howell - 08/01/2015 13:21