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.