Bunker Play

 July 2013 – Rules IQ


The only sand most of us really like is on the beach.  Despite our best efforts, however, we find ourselves in the bunkers from time to time.  Like other hazards on the course, bunkers have their own set of rules.


Here are a few to watch:


  • You cannot ground your club in the bunker.  This means you cannot put the sole of the club on the sand when you prepare for your shot, nor can you take a practice swing in the sand.  Practice swings should be taken either outside the bunker, or if taken in the bunker, the club must be held above the sand.
  •  Stones in bunkers cannot normally be moved, unless they represent a danger.  If the player is likely to hit the stone during their swing, that is considered a dangerous situation, and the stone may then be considered a loose impediment and can be removed.  This permission to remove the stone is considered a local rule.
  • If you want to declare your ball in the bunker unplayable, you have 3 options, under penalty of 1 stroke:

a) play a ball as nearly as possible to the spot from which the ball was last played

b) drop a ball behind the point where the ball lay, keeping that point directly between the hole and the spot on which the ball is dropped, with no limit to how far behind that point the ball may be dropped, or

c) drop a ball within two club-lengths of the spot where the ball lay, but not nearer the hole.


These 3 options apply anytime you consider your ball unplayable, BUT if you are in a bunker, and take option c), you must drop the ball in the bunker.


When you proceed under this rule, you may lift and clean your ball or substitute another ball.


Last but not least, it is etiquette to rake the bunker after play to leave a clear surface for those to follow.  Rakes should be left lying in the direction of play so they are less likely to be an obstruction.  At RedCrest, we leave the rakes outside the bunker.  Some courses prefer rakes left in the bunker.  Local course etiquette should be observed in this case.