Rules of Golf: Unplayable Ball in Bunker

Unplayable ball in bunker? Jeremy Ellwood looks at what you can and can't do if you decide it would be impossible or unwise to attempt to play it

Unplayable ball in bunker? Jeremy Ellwood looks at what you can and can't do if you decide it would be impossible or unwise to attempt to play it

Rules of Golf: Unplayable Ball in Bunker

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If you are faced with an unplayable ball in a bunker, you will need to proceed using Rule 19.3. From the beginning of 2019, players have an extra option in this scenario. Here is everything you need to know when faced with an unplayable ball in a bunker.

Why you SHOULD mark your golf ball

Your first option if you deem your ball unplayable is to go back to where you hit the previous shot and play it again under a penalty of one shot. This might well be your best option if the bunker you are in is particularly nasty.

You can also take a drop within two club lengths of the position of the unplayable lie, no nearer the hole but within the bunker, again under penalty of one shot. Remember that a club length is now the longest club in your bag that day, excluding your putter.

Penalty Areas: How to proceed under Rule 17

Your next option is to mark the position of your ball and, keeping that spot in a line between you and the flag, go back as far as you want within the bunker. This also comes with a penalty of one shot and there is a handy diagram that explains this on page 119 of the Player’s Edition of the rules. Crucially, if you take this option (or the previous option) the ball is quite likely to plug in soft sand, even when only dropping from knee-height.

Golf Rules: Putting Green Essentials

Finally, there is an extra option now open to you but this will cost you two penalty shots. You can now go back on a line (between the flag and the original position of the ball) as far as you like, outside the bunker. We have yet to see anyone take this option in competition but if you particularly struggle from sand this could be the best way to proceed.

Finding your ball in an unplayable position in a bunker is always disappointing but at least by knowing the rules, you will know the best way to get the ball back in play.

 

Jeremy Ellwood
Contributing Editor

Jeremy Ellwood has worked in the golf industry since 1993 and for Golf Monthly since 2002 when he started out as equipment editor. He is now a freelance journalist writing mainly for Golf Monthly across the whole spectrum from courses and Rules to equipment and even instruction despite his own somewhat iffy swing (he knows how to do it, but just can't do it himself). He also edits The Golf Club Secretary Newsletter, has authored or co-authored three books and written for a number of national papers including The Telegraph and The Independent. He is a senior panelist for Golf Monthly's Top 100 UK & Ireland Course Rankings and has played all of the Top 100 plus 89 of the Next 100. He has played well over 900 courses worldwide in 35 countries, but put him on a links course anywhere and he will be blissfully content. On his first trip to Abu Dhabi a decade ago he foolishly asked Paul Casey what sort of a record he had around the course there. "Well, I've won it twice if that's what you mean!" came the reply...

Jezz can be contacted via Twitter - @JezzEllwoodGolf


Jeremy is currently playing...

Driver: Ping G425 LST 10.5˚ (draw setting), Mitsubishi Tensei AV Orange 55 S shaft

3 wood: Ping G425 Max 15˚ (set to flat +1), Mitsubishi Tensei AV Orange 65 S shaft

Hybrid: Ping G425 17˚, Mitsubishi Tensei CK Pro Orange 80 S shaft

Irons 3-PW: Ping i525, True Temper Dynamic Gold 105 R300 shafts

Wedges: Ping Glide 4.0 50˚ and 54˚, 12˚ bounce, True Temper Dynamic Gold 105 R300 shafts

Putter: Ping Fetch 2021 model, 33in shaft (set flat 2)

Ball: Varies but mostly now TaylorMade Tour Response