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practice swing bunkers

Can I take a practice swing and hit sand in a bunker?

Think you know the answer to this little poser? Our rules expert has a surprise in store

 

Here’s a question that might stump some of you: Can you take practice swings and hit the sand when your ball is in a bunker?

No, you’re all yelling in unison. Rule 12.2b (1) says you can’t. You’re right, it does.

Before making a stroke at a ball in a bunker, it states that a player must not touch sand in the bunker with a club “in making a practice swing”.

Case closed, right? But what if your ball is in one bunker, and you take a practice swing and hit the sand in another nearby bunker?

Practice swings in bunkers

The observant among you may have already gleaned the answer, though I managed to get it wrong in more than one rules quiz when studying for my exams. You can make a practice swing and hit the sand in another bunker. Why? Here’s my take: because your ball is not in it.

Read Rule 12.2b (1) again. The restrictions on touching the sand, and when it results in a penalty, refers to before making a stroke “at a ball in a bunker”.

It then prohibits a player from touching sand in the bunker with a club. If the ball isn’t there, the restrictions don’t apply.

It’s a little bit of a surprise this is possible, given the R&A and USGA’s major rules change in 2019, which allowed players to generally touch sand when moving loose impediments for example, continued to prohibit touching the sand with a club in a bunker both for “pace of play and to avoid having large amounts of sand deposited outside bunkers (especially greenside bunkers) as a result of repeated practice swings”.

But there we are – though I’m not sure what your playing partners might think if you pull this one out on the course!

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.

What do you think about this rule about practice swings in a bunker? 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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