Rules Guy: If your ball goes in a bunker, is it legal to take practice swings that touch the sand in a different bunker?
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I’ve heard that if your ball is in a bunker, you can go into another bunker to take practice swings that touch the sand. But I interpret Rule 12.2b as meaning that all bunkers are equally relevant. True?
—Roy Shin, via email
Rules Guy is firmly of the opinion that “going bunker to bunker” should strictly refer to one’s terrible sand play rather than hopscotching between traps to test the surface. But neither of us make the rules, Roy, we just must play by them.
While there was a time when there was a clause specific to testing “similar hazards,” that restriction and terminology have gone the way of the hickory shaft.
Rule 12.2b applies to the bunker in which the ball lies, so nothing in the rules prevents one from taking practice swings in a nearby, similar bunker — except the annoyance of one’s fellow players and course maintenance workers.
For more bunker-related guidance from our guru, read on …
My ball is behind a bunker that I have to play over in order to reach the green. The bunker hasn’t been raked by a previous player, with many footprints and a big divot. Can I rake the bunker prior to my shot in case that’s where my ball winds up?
—Tim Harmer, Wendouree,
Optimism isn’t exactly your long suit, is it, Tim? Alas and alack, under Rule 8.1a(3) you’re not allowed to improve any bunker on your line of play by smoothing footprints or unraked areas. A breach gets you the general penalty of two strokes in stroke play and loss of hole in match play.
Perhaps ironically, you can take care of a bunker that isn’t on your line of play to care for the course. Another thing you can do: Believe in yourself! Get that ball airborne and over the bunker, Tim! As the kids say, Let’s gooooo!
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