Bunker Rules Every Golfer Needs To Know

Here we take a look at some of the bunker rules every golfer should know about.

(Image credit: Kevin Murray)

Here we take a look at some of the bunker rules every golfer should know about.

Bunker Rules Every Golfer Needs To Know

In this video, Neil Tappin is joined by rules guru Jeremy Ellwood to look at the rules specifically related to bunkers. They discuss what you are and are not allowed to do to help avoid any confusion and potential penalty shots.

WATCH: Bunker Rules Every Golfer Needs To Know

The first thing we should acknowledge here is that the ball is deemed in the bunker if any part of it is actually in the bunker which should usually be defined pretty clearly. Acknowledging that, let's get to the rules...

Oh and if you are in the market for a new wedge, take a look at our guide on the best sand wedges too.

1. Not allowed to ground your club in the bunker

The main rule to follow in bunkers is you are not allowed to touch the sand with your club whether that be grounding it behind the ball, shifting sand on your backswing or having a practice shot in the sand.

All of those things would be defined as testing the sand because at the end of the day, bunkers are supposed to be hazards and to be avoided. Therefore if you do hit into one, you have to show greater skill in getting your ball out.

Nor are you allowed to use your hand to test the sand either but you are allowed to shuffle your feet into the sand to give you stability as you are about to play the shot.

Related: Rules of Golf - Plugged Lie

You are not allowed to touch the sand with your club like this

It should be noted that there are some exceptions regarding you or your club touching the sand. First you are allowed to tidy up other parts of the bunker away from where your ball is lying for care of the course purposes.

Additionally if you take two clubs into the bunker to see which one to use, once you have decided you can put the club you decided not to use on the ground too.

Also you can use the club to steady yourself if the bunker is particularly steep of precarious to get in to.

The final exception is if you leave your ball in the bunker and in a fit of anger hit the sand with your club, there is no penalty for that.

Related: 10 Golf Rules Myths

2. Loose Impediments

A loose impediment is defined as an unattached natural object and now the rules have changed in terms of how you can remove them. Previously you would not be allowed to touch those things as you would have been penalised but now you can remove loose impediments.

There are certain situations to be wary of though. Say your ball is in the face of a bunker and is being held there by a pine cone or loose impediment. If you move that pine cone, then your ball will move which will result in a penalty and you must replace the ball. Therefore the best course of action in that specific situation would be to play it as it lies.

3. Unplayable Lies

Sometimes you may find your ball in a completely unplayable area of a bunker. The options here include the usual options of going back to play the previous shot again from wherever that was, you can drop within two clubs lengths no nearer the hole or in line for a one-stroke penalty. Indeed the old rules said this drop still had to take place in the bunker but under the new rules you can take a drop back in line, outside of the bunker but that would be with a two-stroke penalty, not one.

In terms of water in a bunker, you are entitled to relief from that but you must take relief within in the bunker. If you can't then you can take maximum available relief which could mean your feet would still be in the water but your ball wouldn't be. If there is nowhere in the bunker to drop it then you would have to drop outside, under penalty.

Related: 7 Simple Golf Rules Mistakes 


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Sam Tremlett
Sam Tremlett

A golfer for most of his life, Sam started playing the game to prove he was the best player out of his father and two brothers.
He quickly became a golf equipment expert and has always been the one family and friends come to for buying advice, and spends a lot of his time putting golf gear, apparel and shoes to the test.  
He is a graduate of Swansea University where he studied History and American Studies, and he has been a part of the Golf Monthly team since February 2018. He also previously worked for World Soccer and Rugby World magazines.

A jack of all trades across print and digital formats, Sam now spends most of his time testing and looking after golf gear content for the website. He also oversees all Tour player content as well. 

Unfortunately, Sam is not a member of any club at the moment but regularly gets out on the golf course to keep up the facade of having a handicap of five. 

Sam is currently playing:
Driver: Titleist TS3
Fairway Wood: TaylorMade M5 (15 degrees), Nike Covert Tour 2.0 (19 degrees)
Irons (4-PW): Titleist AP2
Wedges: Titleist Vokey SM7 54˚, 58˚
Putter: Scotty Cameron Circa 62 #6