Rules of Golf bunker question

What to do?

BUNKERS can not only be difficult to get out of at times they can also be a minefield when it comes to the Rules of Golf.

One of our readers, Andrew Janiak, obviously had a lively discussion with his playing partner over a bunker incident and the interpretation of the rules during a recent round.

We asked Phil Green, a State Accredited Rules Official and the Club Captain at Jamberoo Golf Club, to reply.



Here’s the question:

“Dear ASG,

I wonder if you can help us to solve this problem.

During Saturday game my partner’s ball was stopped by the rake in the bunker. The rake was left close to the lip of the bunker on the very steep slope. Obviously when he removed the rake the ball moved. He tried to replace the ball, but the slope was too steep and the ball always rolled down. Then he placed the ball on the flat spot below its original position where the ball hasn’t moved.  I said that this was incorrect because the ball was on the moveable obstruction (not next to it) and it had to be dropped in the bunker not closer to the hole.

Who was right?


Senior Golfer

Andrew Janiak

And Phil Green’s reply:

“The confusion here probably arose because Rule 20-3d (ii )says that if a ball when placed fails to come to rest on the spot on which it was placed, there is no penalty and the ball must be replaced. If it still fails to come to rest on that spot in a hazard, it must be placed in the hazard at the nearest spot where it can be placed at rest that is not nearer the hole.

However, the correct Rule is Rule 24-1b which states that if a ball lies in or on the obstruction, the ball may be lifted and the obstruction removed. The ball must through the green or in a hazard be dropped, or on the putting green be placed, as near as possible to the spot directly under the place where the ball lay in or on the obstruction, but not nearer the hole.

If after dropping the ball, it rolls more than 2 club lengths from where it first struck part of the course, or rolls and comes to rest nearer the hole than its original position, it must be re-dropped.

If after re-dropping, it rolls into any position as described above, it must then be placed as near as possible to the spot where it first struck part of the course when re-dropped.

So in the situation as described, the ball should have been dropped as near as possible to the spot directly under where the ball lay on the obstruction. If it then rolled more than 2 clublengths and came to rest, it must be re-dropped. If it again rolled more than 2 clublengths, it must then be placed on the spot where it struck the bunker on the re-drop. If after placing, it rolled down the slope, then it must be placed in the hazard at the nearest spot where it can be placed at rest no nearer the hole.

The full procedure must be followed, i.e. the two drops, then placing, then placing in a different spot if it fails to come to rest.

I hope this clarifies things for your readers.”

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Brian is an award winning golf writer and is the founder and editor of Australian Senior Golfer. He is a former Sydney journalist who had little interest in golf till he hit his first ball at the age of 49 (and a half). Since then golf has just about overtaken his life. Brian founded ASG in April 2008 and has since covered every Australian Open, Presidents Cups, World Cups and numerous other big men’s and women’s tournaments, spending days inside the ropes with the likes of Tiger Woods, Phil Mickelson, Rory McIlroy, Jordan Spieth, Tom Watson, Fred Couples, Greg Norman, Adam Scott, Jason Day, Karrie Webb, and many others. He has also played in, and reported on, numerous amateur tournaments, particularly senior and veteran events, around the country. Brian is a member of the Australian Golf Media Association and won the award for Best News Report for 2016 - 2017


  1. I am no expert, and I may be wrong but I don’t see how 24-1b can apply as it would be impossible for the ball to lie in or on the rake. I think 24-1a applies as regards the initial placing of the ball and 20-3d(ii) applies when the ball fails to come to rest when first placed.

  2. Alex,
    Phil Green has replied to your comment as follows:
    “The original poster in his description of the situation said that the ball was on the movable obstruction (the rake). That was what I based my response on.”
    Which seems fair enough. The original poster actually stated in his question that “the ball was on the moveable obstruction (not next to it)”
    I don’t see how you can say it is “impossible” for the ball to be on the rake. Bear in mind the rake in the picture isn’t the rake in question. I used one at a course on Wednesday – the leaf raking plastic variety with multiple prongs that you could fit any number of golf balls on.
    It is hard to tell without seeing the actual situation. Hopefully people would have a better idea of the application of the various rules involved by looking at this discussion.

  3. Thanks Brian. I take your point Phil. With hindsight, my use of ‘impossible’ was probably ill advised. Having said that, you must admit it is highly unlikely that a ball will come to rest in or on a rake and is much more likely to come to rest against a rake. In that case do you think that my initial comment reflects the correct procedure?

    Like yourself, I hope fellow golfers receive some assistance from this exchange.



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