Rule of the Week
Dec. 12/2019

Patrick Reed was at the center of a rules fiasco at the Hero World Challenge Friday after moving sand from behind his ball twice while playing the par-5 11th hole at Albany.

While preparing for a shot from a waste bunker right of the fairway, Reed took his club back from his ball during multiple practice swings and moved sand from directly behind his ball twice. His ball sat in the middle of a depression, likely a footprint in the sand.

The new rules introduced in January allow players to ground their clubs in bunkers, so while Reed moved sand behind his ball, he was improving his line of play, according to Tour rules official Slugger White. Under Rule 8.1a (4), players are not to remove or press down loose sand or soil. After doing so, Reed was assessed a General Penalty, which is two strokes. You can see Reed's actions below.

8.1 Player's Actions That Improve Conditions Affecting the Stroke

To support the principle of "play the course as you find it," this Rule restricts what a player may do to improve any of these protected "conditions affecting the stroke " (anywhere on or off the course) for the next stroke the player will make:

·         The lie of the player's ball at rest,

·         The area of the player's intended stance,

·         The area of the player's intended swing,

·         The player's line of play, and

·         The relief area where the player will drop or place a ball.

This Rule applies to actions taken both during a round and while play is stopped under Rule 5.7a.

It does not apply to:

·         The removal of loose impediments or movable obstructions, which is allowed to the extent provided in Rule 15, or

·         An action taken while a player's ball is in motion, which is covered by Rule 11.

 a. Actions That Are Not Allowed

Except in the limited ways allowed in Rules 8.1bc and d, a player must not take any of these actions if they improve the conditions affecting the stroke:

(1) Move, bend or break any:

·         Growing or attached natural object,

·         Immovable obstructionintegral object or boundary object, or

·         Tee-marker for the teeing area when playing a ball from that teeing area.

(2) Move a loose impediment or movable obstruction into position (such as to build a stance or to improve the line of play).

(3) Alter the surface of the ground, including by:

·         Replacing divots in a divot hole,

·         Removing or pressing down divots that have already been replaced or other cut turf that is already in place, or

·         Creating or eliminating holes, indentations or uneven surfaces.

(4) Remove or press down sand or loose soil.

(5) Remove dew, frost or water.

Penalty for Breach of Rule 8.1a: General Penalty.

OTHER: To this point by different. 

Bunkers - Touching Sand in Bunker with Club

QUESTION: May I touch the sand with my club when my ball is in a bunker?

ANSWER: Touching the sand with your club immediately in front of or behind your ball, during a practice swing or during your backswing is a penalty (see Rule 12.2b(1)). If you do this, you get a loss of hole penalty in match play or two penalty strokes in stroke play. Other touching of the sand in a bunker is generally ok, as long as you are not deliberately testing the condition of the sand.

12.2 Playing Ball in Bunker

This Rule applies both during a round and while play is stopped under Rule 5.7a.

 a. Removing Loose Impediments and Movable Obstructions

Before playing a ball in a bunker, a player may remove loose impediments under Rule 15.1 and movable obstructions under Rule 15.2.


This includes any reasonable touching or movement of the sand in the bunker that happens while doing so.

 b. Restrictions on Touching Sand in Bunker

 (1) When Touching Sand Results in Penalty. Before making a stroke at a ball in a bunker, a player must not:

·         Deliberately touch sand in the bunker with a hand, club, rake or other object to test the condition of the sand to learn information for the next stroke, or

·         Touch sand in the bunker with a club:

·         In the area right in front of or right behind the ball (except as allowed under Rule 7.1a in fairly searching for a ball or under Rule 12.2a in removing a loose impediment or movable obstruction),

·         In making a practice swing, or 

·         In making the backswing for a stroke. 

Have a Rules of Golf question? Send it to and we will use it for a future feature.

Happy golfing and remember the Rules of Golf matter!
About Golf Saskatchewan
As the governing body of amateur golf in Saskatchewan, our mission is to grow participation in, and passion for golf while upholding the integrity of the game.


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Authored by Brian Lee, Executive Director of Golf SK

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