Rules Guy: Is there a penalty for accidentally hitting a buried ball in a bunker?

What happens if you accidentally hit two balls instead of one?

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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.

My approach shot landed in a greenside bunker. When I thumped my sand shot, my ball appeared to have split! In fact, there was a range ball just under the sand right behind and under my ball, which my wedge had hit. Both balls moved forward about 4 feet and remained in the bunker. Did I have the option to replay my shot? My partner said I didn’t, and it probably cost us $20, because we had four carryovers on the hole. —Matt Biel, Los Angeles, Calif.

I’m sorry for your loss, Matt. On the bright side, your partner knows his rules. You made a stroke at your own ball. Even though another, abandoned ball was dislodged in the process, you’re not considered to have played the wrong ball, and there is no option to replay the stroke for free. (Also on the bright side, there is no penalty, either — cold comfort, I know.)

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By: Rules Guy

That buried ball is a movable obstruction, so you would have been allowed to move it had you noticed it prior to making your stroke. Of course, seeing a buried object is a rather neat trick; instead, you were a victim of rather bad luck. Every golfer knows the feeling at some point.

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.

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