Caught one a bit thin out of the sand and watched it sail over the boundary? Can you rake the footprints? Our Rules of Golf expert weighs in with the answer

There’s little worse than getting it a bit clean out of a greenside bunker and watching it sail over the flag. I tell a lie. There is something worse. Hitting it out of bounds too, which is exactly the woe David McLaren revealed to me in an email…

“My partner hit his bunker shot over the green and out of bounds. Is he allowed to rake the bunker before dropping the ball for his penalty? And is it a drop or a place?”

So, do you get to clean up after yourself or are you taking relief in a mess of your own footprints? Let’s find out…

Rules of Golf explained: Our expert says

Don’t worry. If this ever happens to you – and it’s happened to me plenty – you don’t have to be punished for your initial error by dropping into your dug in footmarks.

Rule 12.2b (3) states there are no restrictions after a ball is played out of the bunker.

You can touch the sand without penalty and you can also smooth sand in the trap to care for the course.

For David’s partner, though, the key point comes now. You can do this even if the “ball comes to rest outside the bunker and the player is required or allowed by the Rules to take stroke-and-distance relief by dropping a ball in the bunker”.

Having hit the ball out of bounds, the player must take stroke-and-distance relief under Rule 18.2b, playing a ball from where the previous stroke was made under Rule 14.6, and dropping in a one-club relief area in the bunker.

Once they take relief, though, the Rules say the restrictions covering touching sand in a bunker under Rule 12.2b and actions improving conditions affecting the stroke under Rule 8.1a again apply.

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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