Rules of Golf explained: Is touching sand in a bunker allowed if it’s a fit of anger?


Emotions running a bit high? Here’s what the Rules of Golf say if you’ve had a tantrum in a trap

We’ve all got a bit under the collar when a shot hasn’t gone to plan, so I loved this email from William Crock…

“A player hits a shot into a greenside bunker. The player attempts to hit the ball out of the trap. With the ball still in the bunker, the player hits the sand in anger.

“After this, the player successfully hits the ball out of the sand. Is there any penalty based on this situation?”

Touching sand in a bunker in anger: Our expert says…

Temper, temper. Remember, it’s only a game. But if you have lost control, lashed out, and the bunker has taken the brunt is there a penalty to add to your wounded pride?

The etiquette police may be frowning but, generally speaking, you’re not going to get a penalty for touching sand in a bunker when your frustration gets the better of you – even if the ball is still in the trap.

Rule 12.2b (2) covers examples when touching sand in a bunker does not result in a penalty. And for those of you with a tendency to get a bit red, you’ll appreciate the final one: “Striking the sand in frustration or anger”.

Now, you’ll notice I said “generally speaking”. If you are going to lash out with your club, be careful where you’re flailing it about.

That’s because if you hit the sand in the area right in front or right behind the ball, or if your actions in “touching the sand improve the conditions affecting the stroke”, in this case your next stroke, you’re going to be in breach of Rule 12.2b (1) and Rule 8.1a respectively.

Both these situations carry the general penalty, which is two shots in stroke play and loss of hole in match play.

Just don’t take the risk. Far better to just chill out then risk adding shots.

Have a question for our Rules of Golf expert?

Despite the simplification of the Rules of Golf at the beginning of 2019, there are still some that leave us scratching our heads. And as I’ve passed the R&A’s level 2 rules exam with distinction, I am more than happy to help.

If you’ve sent me an email and are yet to hear back from me, I will try to answer your query. I’m still inundated with requests and trying to get through them.

Just to reiterate, I continue to receive emails from players hoping I can intervene in a club rules dispute. For fairly obvious reasons, I can’t do that and would direct those players either to their county or to the rules department at the R&A for a definitive judgement.

Click here for the full Rules of Golf explained archive and details of how to submit a question to our expert.

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