Rules Guy: Is it legal to ground your club on grass growing in a bunker?
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.
Is a patch of grass that’s not mowed to fairway height but within the perimeter of a big bunker, considered in the sand bunker — meaning that you can’t ground the club? —JD Masur, via email
A lawyerly question from a JD — how appropriate!
The definition of bunker tells us that soil, or any growing or attached natural object inside the edge of the bunker, is not, repeat not, part of the bunker. Thus, you could indeed ground your club on the grass itself.
Caveat! If it’s a small patch of grass, make sure the ball isn’t touching any of the sand in the bunker, which brings in a host of complex issues around Rule 8 and lightly touching the sand while grounding the club that would probably wind up in a 5-4 decision at the Supreme Court.
As you don’t want me to bill you my hourly rate, let’s leave it at that.
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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