Touching the Sand
Relief from Abnormal Course Conditions in the Bunker
Choosing to Not Play from the Bunker
A specially prepared area of sand, which is often a hollow from which turf or soil has been removed. These are not part of a bunker: A lip, wall or face at the edge of a prepared area and consisting of soil, grass, stacked turf or artificial materials, soil or any growing or attached natural object inside the edge of a prepared area (such as grass, bushes or trees), sand that has spilled over or is outside the edge of a prepared area, and all other areas of sand on the course that are not inside the edge of a prepared area (such as deserts and other natural sand areas or areas sometimes referred to as waste areas).
Your ball is in a bunker when any part of it touches sand on the ground inside the edge of the bunker. Your ball is also in a bunker if it is inside the edge of the bunker and rests: on ground where sand would normally be, or in or on a loose impediment, movable obstruction, abnormal course condition or integral object in the bunker. If your ball lies on soil or grass or other growing or attached natural objects inside the edge of the bunker without touching sand, your ball is not in the bunker.
Removing Loose Impediments and Movable Obstructions
Before playing your ball in a bunker, you may remove loose impediments and movable obstructions.
Restrictions on Touching Sand in Bunker
Before making a stroke at your ball in a bunker, you must not: (1) Deliberately touch sand in the bunker with your hand, a club or rake or any other object to test the condition of the sand and learn information for your next stroke, or (2) Touch sand in the bunker with your club: (a) In the area right in front of or right behind your ball (except as allowed in fairly searching for your ball or in removing a loose impediment or movable obstruction), (b) In making a practice swing, or (c) In making your backswing for a stroke.
Except as covered in the two bullets above, the following actions are allowed: (1) Digging in with your feet to take a stance for a practice swing or the stroke, (2) Smoothing the bunker to care for the course, (3) Placing your clubs, equipment or other objects in the bunker (whether by throwing or setting them down), (4) Measuring, marking, lifting, replacing or taking other actions under a Rule, (5) Leaning on a club to rest, stay balanced or prevent a fall, or (6) Striking the sand in frustration or anger. However, you get the general penalty (2 strokes) if your actions in touching the sand improve the conditions affecting your stroke.
Relief from Abnormal Course Conditions
If your ball is in a bunker and there is interference by an abnormal course condition, you may take free relief in the bunker or you may take a one stroke penalty and take back-on-the-line relief.
Free relief in the bunker
Reference point: the nearest point of complete relief, or, if there isn’t one in the bunker, the nearest point of maximum relief, in the bunker
Point of Maximum Available Relief It is the estimated point where your ball would lie that is: nearest to your ball’s original spot, but not nearer the hole than that spot, in the bunker, and where that abnormal course condition least interferes with the stroke you would have made from the original spot if the condition was not there. Estimating this reference point requires you to identify the choice of club, stance, swing and line of play you would have used for that stroke. If you cannot find a point of complete relief or a point of maximum relief in the bunker you must take penalty relief back on the line.
Back on the line relief: Under penalty of one stroke
Reference point: a point on the course outside the bunker on the line back from the hole through the spot of the original ball in the bunker, no closer to the hole, no limit on how far back on the line. Relief area: one club length from the reference point
Choosing to Not Play from the Bunker
Under the new rules you have two options that allow you to take it out of the bunker: (1) declare it unplayable and take a stroke and distance penalty– replaying from the spot you hit from and (2) add 2 strokes and take it back on the line. For example, on hole #7, you hit your tee shot into the bunker. Under option 1, you return to the tee and hit again (shot #3). Under option 2, you look at the line between the flagstick and your ball in the bunker. You can then go as far back on that line as you want and drop the ball. You will be hitting shot # 4 at this point.