Rules School: Here’s what is (and isn’t) allowed when playing from a bunker

The only time you should find enjoyment in the sand is if you are going to the beach. Finding the sand at the golf course is a whole different matter. The shots are more difficult, the lies are wonky, and the rules even change when you find the bunkers. All in all, it’s just not a great place to be.

And in years past, you even had to worry about destroying your club in the bunker. Find a small rock behind your ball? Play it as it lies and hope it doesn’t scuff your precious new wedge. Luckily, the USGA made a few changes to rules in the bunker so you don’t have to worry about blemishes to your sticks.

Scenario: There is a loose impediment (i.e. rocks, sticks, leaves, etc.) near your ball in the bunker.

Old rule: Play the ball as it lies. Touching anything in the bunker was strictly prohibited, whether it was with your hands or your club.

New rule: Now there is more leniency under Rule 12.2 in the Rules of Golf. The rule states, “you may remove loose impediments and movable obstructions.” The rule goes on to add that although you cannot touch the sand to test the condition of the sand, your club (and hand) may generally touch the sand, such as to brace yourself when getting in and out of the bunker. And taking practice swings is still prohibited, as is brushing away sand on your takeaway (sorry, Patrick Reed).

The new rules were implemented because bunkers are meant to challenge golfers by making them contend with sand, not forcing them to battle stray rocks, leaves or other debris.

Read more:
What happens if I accidentally move my ball on the green?
Use this rule next time you have an impossible lie in a bunker.
This new local rule can save you strokes (and time).
Under this new rule, you can no longer blame a spike mark for a missed putt.

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