Wednesday, 27 November 2013

Searching for a Ball in a Bunker

Delay in Delivering the New Decisions Book
First, many thanks to those of you that used my associate link to purchase the new R&A Decisions book from Amazon, which will earn me a few cents in commission when they are eventually delivered. Unfortunately, like me, you have probably received an email from Amazon apologising for a delay in delivery, which apparently is due to the release date being changed by the supplier at late notice. It is not clear whether this is the fault of the R&A or their printer. On checking the R&A ‘shop’ I see two contradictory messages; “Will be available to buy in December” and “Sorry sold out”! Fortunately, Amazon does expect to fulfill the orders well before Christmas (I recommend this book as an ideal present for Rules enthusiasts) and the amendments do not take effect until 1st January. For those of you that have not yet ordered for yourself, or more importantly for your Club or Society, this is the link. As I write this blog the USGA publication is still not available to order from, but I will update the 'Recommendations' page on my Rhodes Rules School web site as soon as it is.

Yellow golf ball (circled) covered by leaves in a bunker.

Under Rule 23-1, when a loose impediment and a ball lie in or touch the same hazard, the loose impediment may be not be removed without incurring a penalty. Leaves, as shown in the photo, are all loose impediments, so how do we proceed if we believe that our ball may be lying somewhere amongst a pile of leaves that have gathered in a bunker? If we refer to Rule 12-1: Searching for and Identifying a Ball, we will find the answer to this question, which can be summarised, as follows;
  • Providing the player is searching for their ball they are permitted to touch and move leaves in a bunker to aid their search.
  • If the ball is found, the leaves that have been moved must be replaced.
  • If the player moves their ball while they are searching for it, they incur a penalty of one stroke under Rule 18-2a and the ball must be replaced, the same as when searching for a ball through the green.
This is the wording of Rule 12-1b;
In a hazard, if the player’s ball is believed to be covered by loose impediments to the extent that he cannot find or identify it, he may, without penalty, touch or move loose impediments in order to find or identify the ball. If the ball is found or identified as his, the player must replace the loose impediments. If the ball is moved during the touching or moving of loose impediments while searching for or identifying the ball, Rule 18-2a applies; if the ball is moved during the replacement of the loose impediments, there is no penalty and the ball must be replaced.

If the ball was entirely covered by loose impediments, the player must re-cover the ball but is permitted to leave a small part of the ball visible.
Decision 12-1/4 confirms that no penalty is incurred if a player touches the sand in the bunker while probing for their ball, as Rule 12-1 overrides any prohibitions in Rule 13-4.

Interesting Slow Motion Video

This has nothing to do with the Rules of Golf, but I think that most golfers will be interested in seeing the fascinating difference between amateurs and professionals striking the ball at the point of impact. The short video at this link (skip the ad) was filmed, with a Konica/Minolta, 18,000 frames per second, high speed camera, during the third round of the PGA’s RBC Heritage tournament at Hilton Head earlier this year.

Good Golfing,

The above content is strictly copyright to Barry Rhodes © 2013 and may not be copied without permission.


Stewart said...

Hi Barry
I wish to comment on your material here relating to searching for a ball in the bunker. Imagine also in your picture that the loose impediments in the bunker (autumn leaves) also have little twigs attached and some appear to be under as well as around the mostly obscured ball with no visible evidence immediately available as to ball number, personal markings etc. As you note, under Rule 12-1b, if the player accidentally moves his ball in searching for or identifying the ball he incurs the penalty under Rule 18-2a. In these circumstances, if the player seeks to identify the ball as his (to ensure he does not hit a wrong ball) by moving some loose impediments, there would appear to be a non-trivial, possibly even a high risk of the ball moving and a penalty being incurred.
However, it appears to me that this risk can be entirely eliminated by the player following the procedure set down in Rule 12-2b - that is, advising his opponent in match play or marker or fellow-competitor in stroke play that he will mark the position of the ball and lift it to verify that it is his. Of course, he must also provide the person so advised the opportunity to observe what he is doing. In replacing the ball, if the lie is altered, he must restore it (Rule 20-3b).

I conclude that the smart player would employ Rule 12-2 to eliminate the risk of penalty from proceeding under Rule 12-1b.

Would you agree with my analysis here Barry?

Barry Rhodes said...


I certainly agree with you that in the limited circumstances that you describe, following the procedure set-out in Rule 12-2 for identifying a ball would be the sensible option. However, this does not apply if the player's markings are clearly visible or where the ball is completely covered by loose impediments and is not visible.


greg hammond said...

Hi Barry , how should I proceed if the ball in bunker is covered by sand to the extent that it cannot be identified.


Barry Rhodes said...


Rule 12-1a fully explains the procedure;

If the player’s ball lying anywhere on the course is believed to be covered by sand, to the extent that he cannot find or identify it, he may, without penalty, touch or move the sand in order to find or identify the ball. If the ball is found, and identified as his, the player must re-create the lie as nearly as possible by replacing the sand. If the ball is moved during the touching or moving of sand while searching for or identifying the ball, there is no penalty; the ball must be replaced and the lie re-created.

In re-creating a lie under this Rule, the player is permitted to leave a small part of the ball visible.