The modernization of the Rules of Golf in 2019 made way for loose impediments to be removed from sand traps.
Under Rules 12-2a and 12-2b, a player is allowed to touch or move loose impediments in a bunker and will be generally allowed to touch the sand with a hand or club; but a limited prohibition continues so that the player must not:
- Deliberately touch the sand in a bunker with a hand, club, rake or other objects to test the condition of the sand to learn information for the stroke, or
- Touch the sand in a bunker with a club in making a practice swing, in grounding the club right in front of or behind the ball, or in making the backswing for a stroke.
Reasons for Change
The challenge of playing from a bunker is the need to play out of the sand, not to play with leaves, stones or other loose impediments left in place in the bunker. The current approach has created confusion by stating a total prohibition on touching the sand with a hand or club and then recognizing many exceptions.
The revised Rule will simplify this by prohibiting only those acts where there is a purpose for doing so under the Rules:
- Deliberately testing the condition of the sand with a hand or club will continue to be prohibited because part of the player’s challenge is to assess and predict how the sand may affect the stroke, and also because it will be time consuming and inappropriate for players to dig in the sand with a hand or club for that purpose before every shot.
- Touching the sand with the club right in front of or behind the ball or in the backswing for the stroke will continue to be prohibited to make sure the player does nothing to reduce the challenge of playing from the sand; these prohibitions are already well known and followed by almost all players.
- Touching the sand with a club in taking a practice swing will continue to be prohibited both for pace of play and to avoid having large amounts of sand deposited outside bunkers (especially greenside bunkers) as a result of repeated practice swings.