Rules of Golf – Building a Stance

We illustrate the difference between taking your stance fairly and building it

The moment Sun-Ju Ahn was adjudged to have built her stance at Birkdale in 2014

You may take your stance fairly, but not build it. In this article and accompanying video we illustrate when you would be guilty of building a stance

There are a number of things you can and can’t do in bunkers, as we examine in a separate video from our recent Rules shoot with Kevin Barker of The R&A at Gleneagles.

Rule 13-3 states that “a player is entitled to place his feet firmly in taking a stance, but he must not build a stance,” and while this Rule applies anywhere on the golf course, perhaps the most obvious place to illustrate it is when your ball has come to rest up a steep bunker face, and getting in position to play your next shot will be tricky.

South Korean Sun-Ju Ahn found out the hard way during the 2014 Ricoh Women’s British Open at Royal Birkdale, when she was adjudged to have crossed the line between taking her stance fairly and building a stance when playing from a bunker on the 18th hole in the third round.

It was a costly mistake, for Ahn went on to finish 9th even with the two-stroke penalty she incurred for digging in excessively with her left foot.

And therein lies the difference between legality and illegality, in a Rule where the boundaries can perhaps seem just a little blurred, especially in bunkers.

Kevin Barker of The R&A’s Rules department explains where the dividing line comes in the accompanying video from a series shot on the PGA Centenary Course at Gleneagles, which also takes a look at unplayable balls, nearest point of relief, water hazards and much more.

But back to Rule 13-3, as soon as phrases like “digging in excessively” or “pushing down” come to the fore, then we’ve probably made the switch from taking a fair stance to building a stance.

If you reach the stage where what you have done with your feet has created a more even platform from which to make your next stroke than you had originally, then you are guilty of a breach of Rule 13-3, and subject to a two-stroke penalty in stroke play or loss of hole in match 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. He is an expert on the Rules of Golf having qualified through an R&A course to become a golf referee. He is a senior panelist for Golf Monthly's Top 100 UK & Ireland Course Rankings and has played all of the Top 100 plus 91 of the Next 100, making him well-qualified when it comes to assessing and comparing our premier golf courses. He has now played 1,000 golf courses worldwide in 35 countries, from the humblest of nine-holers in the Scottish Highlands to the very grandest of international golf resorts. He reached the 1,000 mark on his 60th birthday in October 2023 on Vale do Lobo's Ocean course. Put him on a links course anywhere and he will be blissfully content.

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