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 (opens in new tab)

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. (opens in new tab)

Elliott Heath
Senior Staff Writer

Elliott Heath is our Senior Staff Writer and has been with Golf Monthly since early 2016. He graduated in Sports Journalism in 2016 and currently manages the Golf Monthly news, courses and travel sections as well as our large Facebook, Twitter and Instagram pages. Elliott has interviewed some huge names in the golf world including Sergio Garcia, Thomas Bjorn, Bernd Wiesberger and Scotty Cameron as well as a number of professionals on the DP World and PGA Tours. He has also covered the 2022 Masters from Augusta National as well as three Open Championships including at Carnoustie in 2018 when he was inside the ropes with Tiger Woods. He has played 31 of our Top 100 golf courses, with his favourites being both Sunningdales, Woodhall Spa, Old Head and Alwoodley. He currently plays at West Byfleet Golf Club in Surrey, where his handicap index floats anywhere between 4-6. His golfing highlight is making albatross on the 9th hole on the Hotchkin Course at Woodhall Spa, and he has made one hole-in-one.

Elliott is currently playing:

Driver: Honma TR20

3 wood: TaylorMade SIM2 Max

2 iron: Mizuno MP-18 MMC Fli-Hi

Irons: Mizuno MP5 4-PW

Wedges: Cleveland RTX ZipCore 50, 54, 58

Putter: Odyssey White Hot OG #5

Ball: Titleist Pro V1x