Beached, But Not Trapped: If an Entire Rule is Dedicated to one Area of the Course, you Know it Must be Important
RULE 12 of the Rules of Golf deals with bunkers (not sand traps). Bunkers aren’t the best place to be, but you will get out of them at some point. You aren’t trapped! Especially if you know what you can and cannot do in there.
What is a bunker in the first place?
A bunker is a specially prepared area, which is often hollow from which turf or soil was removed. It can contain sand or any other similar material (marble, crushed shells, lava rock, etc.). It is also one of the five areas of the course. These items/objects are not part of a bunker:
• A lip, wall or face at the edge of a prepared area and consisting of soil, grass, stacked turf or artificial materials;
• Soil or any growing or attached natural object inside the edge of a prepared area (such as grass, bushes or trees);
• Sand that has spilled over or is outside the edge of a prepared area;
• All other areas of sand on the course that are not inside the edge of a prepared area (such as deserts and other natural sand areas or areas sometimes referred to as waste areas).
What can’t you do in a bunker?
Before making a stroke in the bunker, a player may not:
• Deliberately touch sand in the bunker with a hand, club, rake or any other object to test the condition of the sand to learn information for the next stroke;
• Touch sand in the bunker with a club: In the area right in front of or right behind the ball (except as allowed in fairly searching for a ball or in removing a loose impediment or movable obstruction; In making a practice swing; In making the backswing for a stroke.)
What can you do in a bunker?
• Dig in with the feet to take a stance for a practice swing or the stroke;
• Smooth the bunker to carr for the course;
• Place clubs, equipment or other objects in the bunker no matter how you put them in there;
• Measure, mark, lift, replace, take other actions under a Rule;
• Lean on a club to rest, stay balanced or prevent a fall;
• Strike the sand in frustration or anger;
• Declare your ball unplayable and for one penalty stroke, proceed under your relief options in the bunker, or for a total of two penalty strokes, take back-on-the-line relief outside the bunker.
I’m now out of the bunker, what happens next?
Congratulations, you have gotten out of the dreaded bunker! After you play out of a bunker, without restriction, a player is allowed to touch sand in the bunker without penalty and smooth sand to care for the course without penalty. This is true even if the ball comes to rest outside the bunker and the player is required or allowed by the Rules to take stroke-and-distance
relief by dropping a ball in the bunker.
Over the years, the bunker rules have been relaxed to the benefit of the player. Just remember, always clean up after yourself in the bunker to help all other golfers and the maintenance team!