Here’s a rule change that will please players.

Up until now you are not allowed to rake a bunker before playing your shot, if your ball was in the bunker. Now you can do it. The reason being is that it speeds up play.

So, if your ball is lying in a bunker, and you pick up the rake, rake your own footprints and some others, before playing your shot, there is no penalty provided the smoothing was done for the sole purpose of caring for the course and nothing was done to breach Rule 13-2 in relation to your next stroke.

The R & A do add a warning. If a player is regularly creating and smoothing footprints close to his ball, prior to making strokes from bunkers, it would be appropriate to question the player about the purpose of the smoothing.

So my advice would be, unless you are saving time by raking a bunker before your stroke, or unless the footprints are well removed from your ball, then don’t rake until after you’ve played. And remember, after you’ve played a shot, even though your ball remains in the bunker, you are still entitled to rake, but again don’t breach Rule 13-2.

What happens if, in smoothing the sand, for the sole purpose of caring for the course, a player also moves a loose impediment in the bunker? Again, provided nothing is done to breach Rule 13-2 with respect to his next stroke, there is no penalty, provided that:

  1. the movement of the loose impediment is incidental to the raking of the footprints, and
  2. the lie of the ball, area of the intended swing, or line of play, is not improved by moving the loose impediment.

The player is not required to replace the loose impediment so moved.

Here’s another change.

Last year, the R & A ruled that if a player’s ball struck a rake held by his caddy there was no penalty. The reasoning was that the rake was not part of the player’s equipment. They’ve now changed their mind! When a ball is accidently deflected or stopped by a rake held by or in contact with a player’s caddy, the caddy has accidently deflected or stopped the player’s ball in motion in breach of Rule 19-2. The penalty is one stroke, and the ball must be played as it lies.

Decision 18-2b/5

Question. A player’s ball is at rest. He rests his club on the grass immediately behind the ball and the ball moves. What is the ruling?

Answer. If the grass had been compressed to the point where it would support the weight of the club, the club is considered grounded. Therefore the player has addressed the ball and Rule 18-2b applies. The player incurs a one stroke penalty and must replace his ball unless it is known or virtually certain that some other agency (e.g. a dog or wind) caused the ball to move.

This is very important, because, for instance, if you have addressed the ball on the green, and the wind moved the ball, it is no longer a penalty, and you do not replace the ball, you play it from where it comes to rest, even if that is nearer the hole. Of course, if it is further from the hole, too bad!

This rule doesn’t just apply to a ball on the green. Suppose your ball is in the rough and the grass has not been compressed to the point where it would support the weight of the club, the player has not grounded his club and therefore, has not addressed his ball. The player incurs no penalty under Rule 18-2b but he is subject to penalty under Rule 18-2a if the player’s actions caused the ball to move.

Ray Wilson