Rules of golf: Testing the conditions in a bunker

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What you can and can’t do in a bunker.

Last week’s PGA Championship featured a quirky local rule that meant all ‘bunkers’ were considered ‘through the green’, meaning you could play a practice shot and touch the surface of the sand in the process.

This was a local rule brought in at the Ocean Course at Kiawah Island. Ordinarily, making contact with the sand in a bunker in to test the conditions before your shot is prohibited.

The rules were always very strict with regard to what constituted testing the conditions of a bunker and what wasn’t but more recently, the rules were altered to allow for situations that made much more sense.

Exceptions 1 and 2 to Rule 13-4 say that using the rake to smooth footprints or generally caring for the course, actions that are clearly not being used to test the condition of the bunker, are now permissible. So if you’re raking footprints in another portion of the bunker before you play your shot, and it’s clearly for the purposes of caring for the golf course, you’re fine.

If you touch the sand in a bunker in any other way, you’re up for a two-stroke penalty or loss of hole in match-play.

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