On Jan. 1, more than 30 changes to the Rules of Golf — some small, others significant — will take effect. To get you ready, this holiday season GOLF.com is rolling out a series, “The 12 Days of Rules Changes,” to ensure you always play by the rules, starting with your opening round of the year.
What you can (and can’t) do in the bunker
The Old Rule:
Most golfers know to be careful once entering a bunker. No grounding the club. No touching the sand. No removing leaves or any kind of debris. Is there a rock resting against your ball? Tough break. Play it as it lies, and hope you don’t scratch your new $200 wedge in the process. Otherwise it’s penalties, penalties penalties.
The New Rule:
Under Rules 12.2a and 12.2b, the player will be allowed to touch or move loose impediments in a bunker and will be generally allowed to touch the sand with a hand or club. You still can’t intentionally touch the sand to “test” it. And you can’t clip the sand during a practice swing. But the rules haven’t loosened up considerably to allow you to play a sand shot without any outside materials affecting the shot.
Why It Was Changed:
The USGA says the point of playing out of a bunker is to play out of sand – not battle stray rocks, leaves or other debris.
Will It Be Controversial?
Not really. This is a rule that was designed to wipe out a few controversial scenarios, and it says here the new revision has succeeded. Now, there are still no practice swings allowed in a bunker for both pace-of-play reasons and to prevent players from splashing extra sand out of a trap. Accidentally grounding a club in a bunker still has some potential to stir up problems, but the simple act of moving debris around a ball should be welcomed by golfers of all abilities.
How It Can Help You:
Now you don’t have to scuff a new club again a stone while blasting from a bunker. Also, a stray leaf no longer has the potential to screw up your shot and derail your round. Sounds good to us.
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