(Edit 25th March: This blog was significantly edited following comments from subscribers pointing out that Decision 13/5 rules that a ball that lies on artificial steps within a bunker is in the bunker.)
If a ball is at rest on bunker steps within the margin of a bunker it is in the bunker (Decision 13/5). The player may play the ball as it lies or take one of the options for relief, as in Rule 24-2b(ii) below. In the photo, a ball lying on the bottom two steps would be within the margin of the bunker, whereas a ball lying on either of the top two steps would not and so the player could take relief by dropping within one club-length of the nearest point of relief outside the bunker, not nearer the hole. If the ball is at rest in the sand of the bunker and there is interference to the player's stance or area of intended swing by the steps, then the player may also choose to take one of the options under Rule 24-2b(ii);
If the ball is in a bunker, the player must lift the ball and drop it either:Note that choosing the first option for relief (a) does not incur a penalty, whereas the option of dropping outside of the bunker, on the line from the hole through where the ball lay (b), incurs a penalty of one stroke.
(a) Without penalty, in accordance with Clause (i) above (i.e. within one club-length of the nearest point of relief, not nearer the hole), except that the nearest point of relief must be in the bunker and the ball must be dropped in the bunker
… or (b) Under penalty of one stroke, outside the bunker keeping the point where the ball lay directly between the hole and the spot on which the ball is dropped, with no limit to how far behind the bunker the ball may be dropped.
I always recommend that before players lift their ball to take relief under the Rules, they should work out exactly where they are permitted to drop their ball. In many cases this might be in an unfavourable place, resulting in a more difficult shot than they were originally faced with. In the circumstances above, it is possible that a player may lift their ball from the sand close to the bunker steps before realising that the only point that they could then drop it within the permitted area meant that their backswing would be impeded by the wall of the bunker. Decision 24-2b/5 clarifies that if a player lifts the ball to take relief without penalty under the first option above, but changes their mind, they may then elect to proceed under the second option and drop their ball outside of the bunker for a penalty of one stroke.
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