Tuesday, 8 April 2014

Rakes in Bunkers

My preferred solution for placing bunker rakes
This week’s blog concerns a question that has little to do with the Rules of Golf, but can be a controversial subject amongst those that play the game.

Where should you place the rake after raking a bunker?

I have studiously avoided this subject during my four years of blogging, but have been persuaded to write about it now, following a false assertion that was communicated to me that the R&A recently ruled that bunker rakes must be left within the margin of bunkers. There is no truth to this, but you may be surprised to read that there is a Decision on the subject, right at the end of the book, Decision misc./2.
Q. Should rakes be placed in or outside bunkers?

A. There is not a perfect answer for the position of rakes, but on balance it is felt there is less likelihood of an advantage or disadvantage to the player if rakes are placed outside bunkers.

It may be argued that there is more likelihood of a ball being deflected into or kept out of a bunker if the rake is placed outside the bunker. It could also be argued that if the rake is in the bunker it is most unlikely that the ball will be deflected out of the bunker.

However, in practice, players who leave rakes in bunkers frequently leave them at the side which tends to stop a ball rolling into the flat part of the bunker, resulting in a much more difficult shot than would otherwise have been the case. This is most prevalent at a course where the bunkers are small. When the ball comes to rest on or against a rake in the bunker and the player must proceed under Rule 24-1, it may not be possible to replace the ball on the same spot or find a spot in the bunker which is not nearer the hole – see Decision 20-3d/2.

If rakes are left in the middle of the bunker the only way to position them is to throw them into the bunker and this causes damage to the surface. Also, if a rake is in the middle of a large bunker it is either not used or the player is obliged to rake a large area of the bunker resulting in unnecessary delay.

Therefore, after considering all these aspects, it is recommended that rakes should be left outside bunkers in areas where they are least likely to affect the movement of the ball.

Ultimately, it is a matter for the Committee to decide where it wishes rakes to be placed.
(My bolding.)
Personally, I disagree with the Ruling Bodies on this question. My main argument is that a player is more likely to suffer a detrimental rub of the green when rakes are left alongside the bunker, in that a ball may then be deflected into the bunker by a rake. Of course, it is almost as likely that a ball may be deflected from coming to rest in a bunker by a rake that is lying in the bunker; however, I guess that most amateur players would prefer this consequence! My preference is for the rakes to be left inside a flat part of the bunker with their handles resting against the side, to make it easy to pick-up the rake. I think that the use of the type of rake in the photo above, with a curved handle, is a particularly good solution. I do not like to see rakes left in the middle of the sand, as this necessitates players having to walk into the bunker to retrieve them, which a consequent delay in play, as they smooth over the footsteps that they have made by doing so; or worse, leaving their footprints in the sand to the annoyance and possible inconvenience of those following.

Here are some related Rules points to understand;

  • Rakes are movable obstructions, so if a ball comes to rest against a rake the player may remove the rake without penalty, even if they move their ball while doing so. If the ball is moved it must be replaced and if it will not come to rest on the spot where it originally lay, it must be placed at the nearest spot, not nearer the hole, where it can be placed at rest (Rule 20-3d(ii).
  • There is no penalty if a player touches the sand with their club while moving a rake, e.g. in hooking the handle of the rake with the clubhead (Exception 1 to Rule 13-4).
  • After retrieving a rake from inside a bunker a player may smooth the sand as they exit the bunker, provided this is for the sole purpose of caring for the course and nothing is done to improve the position or lie of their ball, stance, area of intended swing, or line of play (Exception 2 to Rule 13-4).
  • A player may carry a rake into the bunker and place it, or throw it, into the sand before making their stroke (Decision 13-4/21).
Whilst I have given my opinion on the subject of placing rakes in bunkers, I do accept that there are many who disagree. I have found it to be a contentious issue and so I will not be entering into any communication on the matter, as there is no definitive answer and it would lead nowhere.

Good golfing,


I was at my first match practice yesterday and I guess many players in the Norther Heisphere are also preparing for Club or inter-Club match play. Here is a link to my eDocument, 'So You Are Going to Play Match Play'.
The above content is strictly copyright to Barry Rhodes © 2014 and may not be copied without permission.


Mat said...

Agreed. There's really no better or worse place for them. All I care about is that they are USED!

Pocketback Bob said...

Hi Barry - I'm a bit behind with this one but I think you have overlooked a very important angle in your considered opinion on rakes in bunkers and that is the effect on green keepers!

In these difficult financial times for all golf clubs its important to take in to account the need to make green keeping as efficient as possible. Having a rake protruding outside a bunker edge means a man on a mowing machine has to stop work twice on every bunker to remove the protrusion and then replace it in order to cut the grass.

At my club (High Legh Park in Cheshire) we only have 36 bunkers and we require rakes inside bunkers for that reason. God knows how many stops the greenkeepers at Muirfield have to make with their 148 bunkers (mind you at £200 a pop it probably doesn't matter to them! ).

On a more practical point I played Carnoustie last year (who have protruding rakes) and on 3 occasions I was left with a very difficult bunker shot because my ball got caught up by the rake when it should have rolled down to a better lie at the bottom of the bunker.

No prizes for guessing what my preference is then!!!

The Secretary said...

This is an interesting Blog but I feel Barry that you have failed to mention a key fact. A bunker is a hazard...so why should any golfer be able to obtain a good lie in a hazard. Most golfers (unless your name is Pablo) have an aversion to hazards (water) and try to avoid at all costs...but you now if you go in one then there is a penalty or if you are lucky you may have a shot, but run the risk of dirtying the lovely white slacks you are wearing that day. So why should we treat bunkers any different by raking them, makign them nice and smooth so people actually prefer to be ina hazard then keeping the ball on the green green grass? Perhaps if we did away with rakes all together, and simple asked golfers to smooth over foot marks and splash marks with their feet and clubs then thay may make golfers think twice about course management and controlling their ball.

Just a thought...but one that would do away with the current in out in out shake it all about conversation.

Keep blogging Barry, love your work.

Barry Rhodes said...

The Secretary,

You make a fair point. Thanks.


Anonymous said...

I once played at a course that had pvc pipes pushed into the ground vertically in the sand right near the edge of the bunker. The rake handle was then placed in the pipe and it stood vertically. This seems like a good idea as it doesn't interfere with the ball, sand or green keepers. Is there a problem with this that I am overlooking?

Barry Rhodes said...


This is a novel solution to the problem; but I can imagine that it is not one that would go down well with traditionalists!


Don D. said...

Hi Barry,

What are the options in this case?

The ball comes to rest in a bunker, against a rake. The ball is held in place by the rake on a downslope on the side of the bunker that is furthest from the hole. If the rake is removed, the ball will certainly roll closer to the hole. The terrain of the bunker is such that there is certainly no place in it flat enough to place the ball which will not also be closer to the hole.

Is there any way to get free relief from this rake? (I suspect there is not... every free relief option seems to be stymied as far as I can tell.)

Thanks for all the enjoyable reading,
Don D.
Rochester, NY, United States

Barry Rhodes said...

Don D,

You are correct. Part of the answer in Decision 20-3d/2 states;

There is nothing in the Rules permitting a player to press his ball lightly into the sand or ground to make it remain at rest. Accordingly, in either case, since the player could not place the ball in conformity with the Rules, he should proceed under the stroke-and-distance option of the unplayable ball Rule (Rule 28a) or, in equity (Rule 1-4), drop the ball, 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.


Troutfly1 said...

We have wrestled with this issue over the years and some years ago came to the conclusion that you recommend. In considering the options and potential negative consequences of each option, we were, in no small measure, persuaded by our course superintendent to avoid any option that leaves the rake totally outside of the bunkers. His analysis of the time and cost necessary to remove and replace the rakes during course maintenance around the bunkers (we have 88 of them)was enough for us.

bob said...

I am a thinker; not a traditionalist. I really like the idea of PVC pipes to hold the rakes. There are several advantages: 1. the rakes are always conveniently located (if the pipes are properly placed.) 2. rakes don't migrate from one trap to another. 3. obviously this reduces moving time, but may increase maintenance time in the bunker, though I think the decreased moving time more than offsets the bunker raking time. 4. the ball may deflect off the side of the pipe, but the effect should be negligible. 5. Golfers do not have to track through a trap to get a rake which would probably speed up play. 6. eliminating the ball trapped by a rake on a slope is a primary advantage to this idea.

Ed said...

You came to the same conclusion our golf committee did some years ago. We said that the rake should be placed at a low point in the bunker with the handle resting on the lip of the bunker. This generally avoids placing the rake on the side of a bunker/downslope where the rake head could still "trap" the ball (pun intended).

This low point is also where golfers should enter/exit the bunker to avoid damage to the bunker face.

Barry Rhodes said...


Fair enough, but I prefer my solution, as in the photo.


BD said...

As an older player I like the pvc pipes idea - it would save some bending and would be really time efficient for player and greenkeeper. It would however give indication of the presence of, and the position of bunkers.

Anonymous said...

Why on earth would a committee allow a situation which could lead to a difficult if not unfair ruling? This is the case when rakes are left in bunkers, especially against the edges. As noted above, there are situations where because of the positioning of a rake in a bunker a player could incurr a penalty stroke.
For me the answer is clear: either outside in line with play (as recommended by both the R&A and the USGA), or do away with rakes all together. I agree with the ruling bodies conclusion that there is as much chance of a ball deflecting away from a bunker as into a bunker.
It should be noted that my perspective is based on my appreciation of the difficulty of the game resulting through random bounces and deflections. Golf isn't a game that needs micromanaging, and it is the rule of rub of the green that keeps the game honest.

Anonymous said...

The solution is simple. Bunkers should be 'sand hazards', no rakes, play it if you can or take a drop (like water hazard). Great site Barry.

Anonymous said...

Hi Barry... great site !! I have a simple question: Why would you place a “foreign object” inside the confines of a “hazard”?? The impact of the rake on a traveling golf ball is irrelevant. A rake INSIDE a bunker that impacts the NATURAL path of the ball seeking a NATURAL lie… is “foreign” to the bunker. It shouldn’t be in there!! A rake OUTSIDE of a bunker that impacts the NATURAL path of a ball seeking a NATURAL lie… is called “rub of the green”. No different than a ball in flight hitting a sprinkler head, yardage monument, cart path, or… God forbid, the flagstick. All of which can affect the golf ball’s NATURAL path either positively, or negatively… RUB OF THE GREEN!! Needless to say… I believe rakes should be left OUTSIDE of bunkers. If you hit one… and it pops in the bunker… I guess that just a bad b”rake”.