The Rules of Golf surrounding bunkers

Alistair Dunsmuir
By Alistair Dunsmuir December 28, 2011 10:42

The Rules of Golf surrounding bunkers

Here we will review three frequently asked questions pertaining to bunkers.

Greens’ staff often use the winter months to carry out renovation works on bunkers which can mean that some are still recovering at the start of the spring season. The R&A is often asked how to take relief from a bunker that has been recently renovated and marked as ground under repair (GUR).

Previously, committees used to have to classify the bunker as GUR ‘through the green’ within the local rule to remove the bunker’s hazard status. But, as of January 1, 2010, the position was reversed and clarified by a revision to decision 25/13. Currently, by default, if the entire bunker is defined as GUR, it loses its status as a hazard, unless otherwise stipulated by the committee.

Consequently, Rule 25-1b(i) applies when there is interference from the GUR as the ball is considered to lie through the green for relief purposes. Under this rule, the player must lift the ball and drop it, without penalty, within one club-length of, and not nearer the hole, than the nearest point of relief.

It is a common misconception that it is compulsory for the player to play back over the hazard when taking relief and dropping outwith the hazard. Actually, there is no option under Rule 25-1b(i) to drop the ball behind the point where it originally lay, keeping that point directly between the hole and the spot on which it is to be dropped. The key is to find the nearest point of relief, which may be to the side or behind the bunker, depending on the ball’s original position.

Relief is optional under Rule 25-1b(i), so if the committee in charge wishes to protect the bunker and allow it time to repair free from play, it must stipulate in the local rules that the bunker is ground under repair from which play is prohibited. As a result of prohibiting play from the GUR, the player must take relief when he has interference.

It is worth noting that there is a difference between a bunker that is being renovated and one that is simply flooded. In terms of flooded bunkers, the committee may not make a general local rule providing that flooded bunkers are ground under repair. Such a local rule waives a penalty imposed by the Rules of Golf and would be contrary to rule 33-8.

What can a committee do when a bunker is flooded?

Where conditions are such that certain bunkers are completely flooded prior to a competition starting and there would be no opportunity for the condition to improve during the competition, the committee may introduce a local rule providing that these particular bunkers are ground under repair.

This again automatically takes away the status of the hazard (they then become ‘through the green’) and allows for relief to be taken without penalty in accordance with Rule 25-1b(i). The key to this local rule is that the bunker must be completely flooded to merit such a status and it should specify exactly which bunkers that the local rule applies to – and not just any bunker containing some water or water damage.

For example, a local rule might read: ‘The flooded bunker on [insert the location of the bunker, for example, left of the 12th green] is GUR. If a player’s ball lies in the bunker or the bunker interferes with the player’s stance or the area of his intended swing, the player may take relief outside the bunker, without penalty, in accordance with Rule 25-1b(i). All other bunkers on the course, regardless of whether they contain water, maintain their status as hazards and the rules apply accordingly.’

If only part of the bunker is flooded or only part of the bunker merits marking as GUR, then the rules contemplate relief from these situations under Rule 25-1b(ii).

Finally, The R&A is often asked as to our views on where to position bunker rakes. In fact, there is no hard and fast rule.

In practice, players who leave rakes in bunkers frequently leave them at the side or at the back of the bunker where it is easy to place the rake. This tends to stop a ball rolling into the flatter part of the bunker, resulting in a much more difficult shot than would otherwise have been the case. This is especially the case when bunkers are small.

If rakes are left in the middle of the bunker, the only way to position them is to throw them into the bunker and this causes damage to the surface. If it is a large bunker, the player usually walks into the bunker to remove the rake prior to playing a stroke and then must rake all of this area as well as the area where the stroke was made, resulting in unnecessary delay.

Therefore, whilst it can be argued that a ball could be deflected into the bunker when the rake is placed outside of it, considering all these aspects, it is recommended that rakes should be left outside of the bunkers in areas where they are least likely to affect the movement of the ball. This is just a recommendation and ultimately it is for the committee to decide where it wishes the rakes to be placed in the best interests of the course.

Shona McRae is manager of the Rules of Golf at The R&A

Alistair Dunsmuir
By Alistair Dunsmuir December 28, 2011 10:42
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6 Comments

  1. woz281@hotmail.com February 26, 22:15

    Hello
    i play on the same course every week , a society based out of one golf course
    our committee have decided to take alllll bunker out of play for 6 weeks , there is nothing wrong with 90% of the bunkers and now the weather has changed all bunkers are fine , they still have the bunkers out of play
    is this legal to do ????? to me it goes against the above rule
    can you give me an answer please
    they say they have contacted the R&A and had permission to do this , i dont not believe this
    yours in golf
    craig warren

    Reply to this comment
  2. Alan T December 16, 22:31

    “It is a common misconception that it is compulsory for the player to play back over the hazard when taking relief and dropping outwith the hazard. Actually, there is no option under Rule 25-1b(i) to drop the ball behind the point where it originally lay, keeping that point directly between the hole and the spot on which it is to be dropped. The key is to find the nearest point of relief, which may be to the side or behind the bunker, depending on the ball’s original position.”

    Have to disagree with this comment…from PGA website:

    (b) Under penalty of one stroke, outside the bunker keeping the point where the ball lay directly between the hole and the spot on which the ball is dropped, with no limit to how far behind the bunker the ball may be dropped.

    In other words, you need to keep the bunker in line with you and the hole e.g. have to play over the bunker?

    Reply to this comment
  3. JIM STOREY January 26, 19:01

    A staight forward questiom regarding bunkers. Can a player remove man made items such as cans etc from the bunker if they impede his shot ?.

    Reply to this comment
  4. Tug Wilson (Retired Club Sec/Manager) November 14, 12:16

    PLEASE rescind the flagstick rule. The damage to the holes is horrific. Usually caused by extremely careless golfers. (they are amongst us) Then there’s the guys with the ‘bad back’ who can’t retrieve the ball from the bottom of the hole without the assistance of the ‘sucker’/’gripper’ on the end of their putter. or the ‘clever clogs who hoists the ball out of the hole with his putter – eventually! It doesn’t save time, as intended. Further, why do players keep asking whether their opponent wants the pin in or out? The player will decide and ask for it’s removal or even take it out themselves. Let’s get back to what works for once.

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