One of the worst experiences in golf can be when you take a long, or downhill putt and you watch your ball roll straight past the hole and on into a bunker, especially if you are as bad at playing from the sand as I am. Those of us lucky enough to have been able to watch The Open Championship in Muirfield in mid-July may have seen Rory McIlroy do just that during his first, disappointing round. There were several videos of Rory’s embarrassing putt, but I see that the Open Championship have demanded that they be taken down on copyright grounds. At the time of writing the incident could still be viewed at this link.
We know that many professional golfers would rather play from a pristinely raked bunker than from the surrounding rough and Rory certainly had no problem in extricating his ball from the sand, although he still made a double-bogey on this occasion. However, this incident raises the question as to what are the options when players deem their ball unplayable in a bunker, either because they have a problem playing from sand or their ball is so badly plugged, or close to the lip, that they are uncertain that they can play out in any direction with a single stroke. There are three options under Rule 28, all of which incur one penalty stroke;
- At any time, a player may choose to play a ball as nearly as possible from the spot at which the original ball was last played. In the above scenario Rory could have lifted his ball from the bunker and replaced it on the putting green at the place that he had originally played from, for a penalty of one stroke.
- They may drop a ball in the same bunker 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 (providing it is still in the bunker).
- They may drop a ball in the bunker within two club-lengths of the spot where the ball lay, but not nearer the hole.
I am also reminded that a player whose ball lies in a bunkere may also exercise the option of dropping outside a bunker for a penalty of one stroke to take relief from interference from an immovable obstruction, Rule 24-2b(ii)(b).)
In my opinion, the easiest way to obtain a better understanding of the Rules of Golf is to regularly test yourself on situations that regularly arise on the golf course. My eBook, ‘999 Updated Questions on the Rules of Golf 2012-2015’ makes this easy and fun. The book is divided into three sections, there are 333 simple questions that every golfer should be familiar with; there are 333 more difficult questions relevant to both casual golfers and Golf Club members; and there are 333 advanced questions for those seeing to expand their knowledge of the Rules. More information and how to purchase can be found by clicking on this link . The price is just $9.99, €8.99 or £7.79.
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