Rules Guy: If your ball goes in a bunker, is it legal to take practice swings that touch the sand in a different bunker?

Player hitting from bunker

What do the rules say about practice swings that touch the sand in a bunker other then the one your ball is in?

Getty Images

The Rules of Golf are tricky! Thankfully, we’ve got the guru. Our Rules Guy knows the book front to back. Got a question? He’s got all the answers.

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.

golfer in bunker
Rules Guy: Is it a penalty to smooth bunker sand with your foot if the ball goes back in?
By: Rules Guy

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,

VIC, Australia

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!

Need help unriddling the greens at your home course? Pick up a custom Green Book from 8AM Golf affiliate Golf Logix.

Got a question about the Rules? Ask the Rules Guy! Send your queries, confusions and comments to We promise he won’t throw the book at you.

Pro shop

Shop our selection of game-improvement gear

Explore GOLF’s Pro Shop
generic profile image