Tuesday, 25 March 2014

Golf Ball at Rest on or Near Bunker Steps

Wooden steps leading into a bunker, like those in the photo, are artificial and are therefore immovable obstructions. So how does a player proceed if their ball comes to rest on one of the steps, or lies in a position where there is interference by the steps to their stance or area of intended swing?

(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:
(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.
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.

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.

Good golfing,

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Reub said...

Grateful for your comments on 2 problems I encountered recently.
1. On a long par 4, a player's second shot landed in a green side bunker where it embedded near the wall. In attempting to get to his ball from the high end of the bunker , the player slipped causing sand from the wall of the bunker to cascade down burying the ball several inches deep. What are his options?
2. A player's ball was on his opponent's line of putt on the green and was asked to move his marker. The green was damp after a recent shower, and while attempting to relocate his marker his putter slipped knocking the marker ( coin) a foot or so away. He replaced the ball correctly and played. Is there a penalty?

Barry Rhodes said...


1. Presuming that the ball did not move the player did not incur any penalty. He was permitted to move sand in order to find his bal. Having found his ball he must re-create the lie as nearly as possible by replacing the sand that was moved. If the ball is moved during the touching or moving of sand while searching for or identifying the ball, there is no penalty, but it must be replaced and the lie re-created leave a small part of the ball visible (Rule 12-1a). If the player decides not to play his ball because it is too deeply embedded in the sand, he may deem it unplayable and choose one of the three options in Rule 28, for a penalty of one stroke. Note that options b and c require that the ball is dropped in the bunker, not nearer the hole.
2. The player incurred a penalty of one stroke, as his ball marker was moved other than in the specific act of marking his ball. Part of Decision 20-1/15 states;

… any accidental movement of the ball or the ball-marker which occurs before or after this specific act, such as dropping the ball or ball-marker, regardless of the height from which it was dropped, is not considered to be "directly attributable" and would result in the player incurring a penalty stroke.

If you enter "Ian Poulter" in the 'Search This Blog' box in the top right corner of this blog page, you will see that he was guilty of a similar breach in November 2010.