One of our most-read Rules Guy questions involved a tricky bunker dilemma

This question about touching the sand in a different bunker than the one your ball is in was the year's second-most-read Rules Guy.

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Rules Guy is one of’s most popular franchises, tackling real questions from loyal readers twice a week with Rules Guys’ unique blend of wit and wisdom.

As we look back on the year that was, some questions were more of a hit with readers than others. In August, Rules Guy answered a letter from Roy Shin, who submitted his inquiry via email.

Shin was curious about the legality of taking a practice swing — and touching the sand — in a different bunker than the one your ball is in. Do the Rules allow such a thing? The answer may surprise you!

Reacquaint yourself with the full question and answer below, and to read the post in its original form, click here.

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

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

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.

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As a four-year member of Columbia’s inaugural class of female varsity golfers, Jessica can out-birdie everyone on the masthead. She can out-hustle them in the office, too, where she’s primarily responsible for producing both print and online features, and overseeing major special projects, such as GOLF’s inaugural Style Is­sue, which debuted in February 2018. Her origi­nal interview series, “A Round With,” debuted in November of 2015, and appeared in both in the magazine and in video form on