Rules Junkie: Building A Stance In a Bunker

Last week at the Swinging Skirts LPGA Classic, eventual winner Haru Nomura had a brush with the rules in the middle of her third round that many, including some of her fellow competitors, felt deserved more of an explanation.

Here’s what happened, via GolfChannel.com

According to LPGA rules official Marty Robinson, a television viewer alerted the tour by email that Nomura might have built a stance in a greenside bunker at the sixth hole in violation of Rule 13-3.

Nomura found herself in an awkward spot near the lip of the bunker. With her left foot out of the bunker, she struggled to get a stance with her right foot in the bunker. She made a number of attempts to get a stance before hitting the shot.

“We were concerned enough to have Haru come to the trailer herself to explain what she was doing and why,” Robinson said. “As Haru was attempting to get her stance, she felt her feet slipping in that process, but after viewing it and talking to Haru we felt there was no breach of that rule.”

Robinson said there is gray area in the rule as to what constitutes building a stance in that type of situation, but the rules committee believed she was only trying to get a “firm stance,” not build a stance. He said a player is entitled to a “firm stance.”

While Nomura was cleared of any wrongdoing, some of her fellow players felt slighted.

Since the LPGA Tour has wiped the footage of Nomura in the bunker from the Internet, this is the closest explanation we could get on video of Rule 13-3.

The rule itself if pretty vague, but Decision 13-3/3 goes a little ways in clearing it up

13-3/3 Knocking Down Side of Bunker to Get Level Stance

Q. A player knocks down the side of a bunker with his foot in an effort to get his feet on the same level. Is this permissible?

A. No. Such action constitutes building a stance in breach of Rule 13-3.

Nomura’s explanation falls in line with what the LPGA rules officials were saying: she was simply trying to find a firm stance.

“It was slopey,” she said through a translator. “I kept slipping downhill.

“When I had to do a practice swing, I had to swing real hard, and when I did, I kept moving forward, again and again. There was no option but to move like that, but they were saying that I was moving excessively. But what I was trying to tell them was, `OK, then what is the guideline?’ There should be some sort of a standard, a regulation, that explains what is and what isn’t an infraction. That’s what was going on.”

Nomura would eventually win by four strokes, seemingly rendering the would-be two-stroke penalty a moot point, but it’s worth pointing out that should she have incurred the two-stroke penalty, her lead heading into the final round would have been cut to one shot.

Sweeping the possible infraction under the rug only muddies the waters on an already confusing topic. The LPGA should use the video as an educational tool, whether it be explaining why Nomura did not break a rule or why she did. Taking down any video of the incident only makes it more incendiary. 

Have a rules question you want answered and explained? Tweet @Wrong_Fairway with the hashtag #RulesJunkie and you could see your question answered in the Rules Junkie column.

[h.t GolfChannel.com]

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