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Purpose of Rule: Rule 12 is a specific Rule for bunkers, which are specially prepared areas intended to test the player’s ability to play a ball from the sand. To make sure the player confronts this challenge, there are some restrictions on touching the sand before the stroke is made and on where relief may be taken for a ball in a bunker.

When Ball Is in Bunker

A ball is in a bunker when any part of the ball:
  • Touches sand on the ground inside the edge of the bunker, or
  • Is inside the edge of the bunker and rests:
    • On ground where sand normally would be (such as where sand was blown or washed away by wind or water), or
    • In or on a loose impediment, movable obstruction, abnormal course condition or integral object that touches sand in the bunker or is on ground where sand normally would be.
If a ball lies on soil or grass or other growing or attached natural objects inside the edge of the bunker without touching any sand, the ball is not in the bunker. If part of the ball is both in a bunker and in another area of the course, see Rule 2.2c.

Playing Ball in Bunker

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

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.

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.
See Rule 25.2f (modification of Rule 12.2b(1) for players who are blind); Rules 25.4l (application of Rule 12.2b(1) for players who use assistive mobility device). (2) When Touching Sand Does Not Result in Penalty. Except as covered by (1), this Rule does not prohibit the player from touching sand in the bunker in any other way, including:
  • Digging in with the feet to take a stance for a practice swing or the stroke,
  • Smoothing the bunker to care for the course,
  • Placing clubs, equipment or other objects in the bunker (whether by throwing or setting them down),
  • Measuring, marking, lifting, replacing or taking other actions under a Rule,
  • Leaning on a club to rest, stay balanced or prevent a fall, or
  • Striking the sand in frustration or anger.
But the player gets the general penalty if their actions in touching the sand improve the conditions affecting the stroke in breach of Rule 8.1a. (See also Rules 8.2 and 8.3 for limitations on improving or worsening other physical conditions to affect play.) (3) No Restrictions After Ball Is Played Out of Bunker. After a ball in a bunker is played and it is outside the bunker, or a player has taken or intends to take relief outside the bunker, the player may:
  • Touch sand in the bunker without penalty under Rule 12.2b(1), and
  • Smooth sand in the bunker to care for the course without penalty under Rule 8.1a.
This is true 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, or
  • The sand in the bunker is on the player’s line of play for the next stroke from outside the bunker.
But if the ball played from the bunker comes back into the bunker, the player takes relief by dropping a ball in the bunker or the player decides not to take relief outside the bunker, the restrictions in Rules 12.2b(1) and 8.1a again apply to that ball in play in the bunker. Penalty for Breach of Rule 12.2: General Penalty.

Specific Rules for Relief for Ball in Bunker

When a ball is in a bunker, specific relief Rules may apply in these situations:
  • Interference by an abnormal course condition (Rule 16.1c),
  • Interference by a dangerous animal condition (Rule 16.2), and
  • Unplayable ball (Rule 19.3).
Rule 1The Game, Player Conduct and the Rules
Purpose of Rule: Rule 1 introduces these central principles of the game for the player: Play the course as you find it and play the ball as it lies....
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