New Golf Rules Explained: Bunker Changes

From 2019 the rules regarding loose impediments and unplayable lies in bunkers changed. Here is how.

(Image credit: Kevin Murray)

The rules regarding loose impediments and unplayable lies in bunkers changed in 2019. Here is how.

New Golf Rules Explained: Bunker Changes

After the current golf rules were brought in at the beginning of 2019, there were two key changes to note when it comes to bunker. Below we have explained them both and indicated how both rules have changed.

Touching or moving loose impediments or sand in a bunker


In a bunker, you must not touch the sand with either hand or club, or touch or move any loose impediments in the hazard.

From 2019

An acceptable sight from 2019

You are now able to touch or move loose impediments in a bunker and generally touch the sand with hand or club.

However, you still must not deliberately touch it to test its condition.

Prohibitions for practice swings and grounding the club at address or on the backswing will remain.

The challenge of bunkers is meant to be playing from sand and not having to also deal with pine cones, twigs etc.

The remaining restrictions will ensure nothing is done to reduce that test.

Related: 8 Rules Golfers Break Without Realising

Unplayable ball in bunker

Graphic: R&A


You may only drop outside the bunker when proceeding under the stroke and distance option (1 on diagram) of the unplayable ball Rule.

If dropping back on line (2), or within two club-lengths (3), you must drop within the bunker.

From 2019

An additional option allows you to drop back on line outside the bunker, but under penalty of two strokes (4).

Steep-faced bunkers can present a real challenge, and this additional option will help those faced with shots they struggle to play to keep a round going.

Previously, if you play a bunker shot and leave it in there, there is then no option at all to drop outside.

This new Rule ensures you always have the choice to drop outside the bunker, but it will cost you an extra penalty stroke.

Additionally if you are unsure of any other rules when it comes to the sand, be sure to have a read of our guide on the bunker rules every golfer needs to know.

Elliott Heath
Senior Staff Writer

Elliott Heath is our Senior Staff Writer and has been with Golf Monthly since early 2016 after graduating with a degree in Sports Journalism. He manages the Golf Monthly news, features, courses and travel sections as well as our large Facebook, Twitter and Instagram pages. He covered the 2022 Masters from Augusta National as well as four Open Championships on-site including the 150th at St Andrews. His first Open was in 2017 at Royal Birkdale, when he walked inside the ropes with Jordan Spieth during the Texan's memorable Claret Jug triumph. He has played 35 of our Top 100 golf courses, with his favourites being both Sunningdales, Woodhall Spa, Western Gailes, Old Head and Turnberry. He has been obsessed with the sport since the age of 8 and currently plays at West Byfleet Golf Club in Surrey, where his handicap index floats anywhere between 2-5. His golfing highlights are making albatross on the 9th hole on the Hotchkin Course at Woodhall Spa, shooting an under-par round, playing in the Aramco Team Series on the Ladies European Tour and making his one and only hole-in-one at the age of 15 - a long time ago now!

Elliott is currently playing:

Driver: Titleist TSR4

3 wood: TaylorMade SIM2 Max

Hybrid: TaylorMade SIM Max

Irons: Mizuno MP5 4-PW

Wedges: Cleveland RTX ZipCore 50, 54, 58

Putter: Odyssey White Hot OG #5

Ball: TaylorMade TP5x