Rules Guy: When playing a match, can you hit a practice shot out of a bunker after a hole is completed?

What do the rules say about hitting a practice bunker shot during a match?

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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.

I was recently playing in a two-man best-ball tournament. After the hole was completed, one of our opponents hit a practice shot out of a bunker. Is he disqualified for doing so? — Jack Morkin, via email

Disqualified from the tournament? Jack, please, cut the guy a little slack. He is disqualified from the next hole.

While you are allowed to practice putt or chip between holes, such practice strokes must not be made from a bunker. The penalty is the general penalty — loss of hole in match play, two strokes in stroke play, as loyal readers need no reminding — which applies to the next hole.

In four-ball, when one player gets a loss-of-hole penalty and the partner doesn’t, the result is that they get disqualified from the hole. (Worth noting, although it makes no practical difference in this instance since the side already loses that upcoming hole, but if the practice stroke also helped the partner in any way, such as getting a bunker tip, the partner would get the penalty as well.)

Please see Rule 5.5b (practice) and Rule 23.8 (four-ball application). Practice doesn’t always make perfect — sometimes it just makes a rules violation. 

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Rules Guy: In a four-ball match, do you have to share a wrong-ball penalty with your partner?
By: Rules Guy

For more match-play guidance from our guru, read on …

In match play, my shot and my opponents’ land on the green. My opponent concedes my birdie putt, then putts my ball into the hole before attempting his putt to halve. Is this legal? — Bill Dolbow, West Palm Beach, Fla.

Golf, or at least its rules, can be a funny thing: Your opponent’s action is only legal if it wasn’t really putting. If he had merely been attempting to return your ball to you or get the ball out of the way and then the hole simply got in the way, he’s in the clear.

If instead he was performing some kind of trial run for his own putt, maybe hoping to glean information on, say, green speed or the break — i.e., practicing — he violated Rule 5.5(a), with the penalty being loss of hole in match play. Moral of the story: A gentle toss of the ball to your opponent is the safe way to go.

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

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