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can i clear sand on the green

Can I move sand from the line of my putt?

Is someone’s bunker mess blocking your path to the hole? Our Rules of Golf expert looks at when, and where, you can remove sand on the course

 

Greenside bunkers – they’re tricky to get out of but that’s not the only time they can cause a menace to your game.

The problem with splashing sand about is that it gets everywhere and it’s not uncommon to see a green splattered with the stuff.

Wet sand, in particular, can cause havoc with your putts if it’s blocking your line to the hole and I’m often asked whether you can clear sand away and what the rules also are if there is plenty of it on the green but your ball isn’t.

So, get out your buckets and spades, we’re about to see if we can shift a mini sandcastle…

can i clear sand on the green

Can I clear sand on the green?

First things first. Can you remove sand, or loose soil, from the putting green? Yes. Rule 13.1c (1) says sand and loose soil on the green can be ‘removed without penalty’.

You can do that ‘no matter whether the ball is on or off the putting green’. Careful, though, when carrying out that husbandry.

Say your ball is off the green. While you can remove sand and loose soil on the putting surface, Rule 13.1c (1) also says you can’t do it anywhere else on the course.

So if you start clearing away yellow stuff that’s not on the green, you’ll fall foul of Rule 8.1a (4) if you’ve improved the conditions affecting your next stroke.

Those cover a whole range of areas including the lie of the player’s ball at rest and the player’s line of play.

If this happens, you can’t avoid a penalty even if you then try and restore those conditions under Rule 8.1c, which is obvious when you think about it. How are you going to put every grain of sand back in place? That moment of madness is going to cost you the general penalty – two strokes or loss of hole in match play.

If your ball is at rest and the conditions affecting the stroke are worsened, for example by another player splashing out of a bunker and spraying it with sand, Rule 8.1d (1) allows you to “restore the original conditions as nearly as possible”.

A clarification to that rule gives example of when restoration is allowed, including when “a player’s lie or area of intended stance or intended swing is worsened when another player’s stroke creates a divot or deposits sand, soil, grass or other material on or around his or her ball.”

Got a question for our expert?

Despite the changes to the Rules of Golf in 2019 and 2023, there are still some that leave us scratching our heads. I’ll try to help by featuring the best of your queries in this column.

Have you spent any time clearing sand off the green? Let me know by leaving a comment on X.

Steve Carroll

Steve Carroll

A journalist for 25 years, Steve has been immersed in club golf for almost as long. A former club captain, he has passed the Level 3 Rules of Golf exam with distinction having attended the R&A's prestigious Tournament Administrators and Referees Seminar.

Steve has officiated at a host of high-profile tournaments, including Open Regional Qualifying, PGA Fourball Championship, English Men's Senior Amateur, and the North of England Amateur Championship. In 2023, he made his international debut as part of the team that refereed England vs Switzerland U16 girls.

A part of NCG's Top 100s panel, Steve has a particular love of links golf and is frantically trying to restore his single-figure handicap. He currently floats at around 11.

Steve plays at Close House, in Newcastle, and York GC, where he is a member of the club's matches and competitions committee and referees the annual 36-hole scratch York Rose Bowl.

Having studied history at Newcastle University, he became a journalist having passed his NTCJ exams at Darlington College of Technology.

What's in Steve's bag: TaylorMade Stealth 2 driver, 3-wood, and hybrids; TaylorMade Stealth 2 irons; TaylorMade Hi-Toe, Ping ChipR, Sik Putter.

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