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Experts Explain: A Visit To The Beach

Posted: 12/21/2011

Typically during a round a golfer is likely to find himself in a bunker. A bunker is a hazard and Rule 13-4 (Ball in Hazard; Prohibited Actions) tells us what a player is prohibited from doing when his ball is in a hazard (bunker or water hazard).

Rule 12-1 (Searching for Ball; Seeing Ball) articulates several privileges a player has when his ball is in a hazard. Knowing these two Rules will help you when you find yourself in a bunker.  

First the prohibitions: Before a player makes a stroke at a ball that is in a bunker, he must not test the condition of that bunker or any similar hazard. An example of testing the condition of a bunker is the player who splashes sand when taking practice swings. The player must not touch the ground in the bunker with his hand or a club. The third and last prohibition is that the player must not touch or move a loose impediment lying in or touching the bunker. Loose impediments are natural things like stones, leaves, twigs and branches.  

These prohibitions are straightforward, but don’t get too comfortable – there are some exceptions to keep in mind. Provided the player does not test the condition of the hazard or improve the lie of the ball, without penalty, he may touch the ground or loose impediments in the bunker without penalty if he falls in the bunker. He may touch the ground in the bunker to remove a movable obstruction such as a rake. He may touch the ground in the bunker in measuring, or marking the position of, retrieving, lifting, placing or replacing a ball under any Rule. And, the player may place his clubs in the bunker without penalty.  

The player may also smooth sand in the bunker with a rake or otherwise provided it is done solely for the purpose of caring for the course and nothing is done to improve the lie of the ball or the area of intended stance or line of play for the next stroke. Once the ball is outside the bunker after the stroke, the player may smooth sand in the bunker without restriction. After making a stroke from within the bunker, if the ball comes to rest in another hazard (bunker or water hazard), the prohibitions listed above do not apply to any actions taken in the bunker from which the stroke was made.  

Finally, the “Note” under Rule 13-4 tells us that at any time when his ball is in a bunker, the player may touch with a club or otherwise, any obstruction, integral part of the course or any grass, bush, tree or other growing thing.   

Rule 12-1 articulates privileges the player has when searching for or identifying a ball in sand anywhere on the course. If the ball is believed to be covered by sand, the player may use a club or rake to remove as much sand as will enable her to see a part of the ball. If an excess is removed, there is no penalty and the ball must be re-covered so only a part of the ball is visible. If the ball is moved during the search, there is no penalty; the ball must be replaced and if necessary re-covered. The specifics of this Rule override the prohibitions of Rule 13-4. 

Rule 12-1 also covers searching for or identifying a ball when it is covered by loose impediments in a bunker. Normally you are not allowed to move loose impediments in a hazard, but if you need to find your ball or identify a ball that is seen in the hazard, you may move loose impediments in order to do so. In this case, you do need to be careful. If you cause your ball to move while searching or identifying the ball, you will be subject to a one-stroke penalty under Rule 18-2a and you must replace the ball. Once you have found the ball, you must cover it again with the loose impediments. If the ball moves while you are replacing the loose impediments, there is no penalty as long as you replace the ball. 

If your ball is covered by sand or loose impediments in a hazard, you are allowed to leave a small portion of the ball visible after you have recovered it. 

Knowing the prohibitions outlined in Rule 13-4 can keep you out of trouble with the Rules when in a bunker, and knowing the privileges provided in Rule 12-1 can save you strokes when you take advantage of them in the bunker.  



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