Everyone has heard about getting lost in the desert. In some countries, it’s even considered a common occurrence, especially when a violent sand storm is raging.
But have your ever heard about getting lost in a bunker (or on the beach as some say)? Not in a military bunker but rather a golf bunker a.k.a. a good old sand trap!
Many clumsy or impatient golfers lose a lot of strokes in them...but actually losing your ball in a bunker is rare.
Beware these special bunkers that seem to act like quicksand and swallow your ball.
Multiple Attempts to Get Out of the Trap
It almost happened to a fellow competitor once. In a tournament, he had to hack out 3 different balls from the same bunker before finally getting his own out of the hazard.
So on that day, George played a first ball out of the deep sand strap. He actually played a very decent shot to about
of the hole. Unfortunately for him, that first ball was not his.
We continued the search…He missed his attempt on the second ball and left it in the bunker. Fortunately for him, again, it was the wrong ball.
George was getting tired after all that play in the sand. He eventually played a third ball out to about
beyond the hole and it was ultimately his.
In the end, the golf gods were not completely on his side as he lipped out after a nice putt for his par.
A lot of balls would plug and even disappear in that particular trap. It was deep and the sand in it was very soft, probably too soft. Most of the time, golfers would also try to play high wedge shots over that bunker placed so tight to the green.
In retrospect, that bunker was apparently badly maintained and/or designed. In fact, it has been revamped since. It’s still deep but at least, balls now never stay in the face of it.
Close Your Club Face and Swing Hard
A quick tip from my proud old golf guru.
Sand wedges are designed to blast your ball out of bunkers but they may not be the best answer to effectively get out of plugged lie.
Using your pitching wedge instead may be a better option. A shallower pitching wedge edge will dig into the sand and get to the ball. A sand wedge with its wider edge bounces in the sand and will never reach the ball.
So the best tip I ever got for plugged lies was to use my pitching wedge with a shut face (about 45 degrees) and to swing very hard an inch or two behind the ball. Distance is still hard to control but you should at least get out of the bunker at each attempt. With a little time, you could easily improve your control and distance because the shot is kind of fun to practice.
A 9 or 8 iron could also do the trick. Most of the time, the sand will completely stop your follow through but with a powerful enough swing, the club should still dig out the sand and your ball with it. With this shot, a lower trajectory should also be anticipated so you may have to aim at a spot where the bunker lip is not too high.
You May Have Permission to Touch the Sand
Children like to play in sand but for any respectable golfers, touching sand in a greenside bunker is considered like the ultimate sacrilege. They get penalized only a couple shots if they do it before a stroke but for most, it’s deem a neophyte’s sin that should almost automatically grant you death penalty.
The truth is that in some circumstances, they may have the permission to do so. For instance, when searching for a ball in a bunker hazard.
To some extent, before the rule change in 2008, we could have a little fun and almost play like children in sand bunkers. You could even take out your frustration on several balls as there were no penalty for hitting the wrong ball or balls in a hazard.
The new rules still permit you the “play” in sand but solely for the purpose of identifying your ball. The rules also take out a lot of fun out of it as they stipulate you have to clean out your “mess” afterwards.
What the Rules Say?
In 2008, many aspects of the golf rules were changed. One of the major modification was that players are now allowed to lift their ball for the purpose of identifying it in a hazard. As a result, many intricacies of the rules related to searching a ball in a bunker also had to be adjusted.
Before that change, the typical scenario would be that a player would move sand to look for his ball. He would stop as soon as he saw part of a ball. He would then attempt to play that ball out of the bunker and immediately check it out. If it was his ball, he would continue playing on. If it was not his ball, he would get back in the bunker and resume the searching process in the same fashion. No penalty for playing a wrong ball would be accessed if he played other balls during the operation.
Nowadays, even though the process seems a bit more logical, players have to be careful because they will incur a 2-stroke penalty if they happen to play another player’s ball out of a bunker (rule 15-3). The correct way to proceed now is to remove sand to look for your ball. To stop when you see a ball and lift it for identification. After your ball has been identified, you have to recreate the lie as much as possible with the exception that you can leave a small part of the ball visible and then, proceed to play it.
Some facets of the rules have remained similar like the fact that a ball moved while searching for it in a bunker has to be replaced without penalty. In the same matter, if your ball was lost and not found within 5 minutes, in both eras, you would incur a one-stroke penalty and proceed under the lost ball rule (rule 27-1).
We’ll finish this post with some excerpts from the new rules regime:
12-1. Seeing Ball; Searching for Ball
a. Searching for or Identifying Ball Covered by Sand
If the player's ball lying anywhere on the course is believed to be covered by sand, to the extent that he cannot find or identify it, he may, without penalty, touch or move the sand in order to find or identify the ball. If the ball is found, and identified as his, the player must re-create the lie as nearly as possible by replacing the sand. If the ball is moved during the touching or moving of sand while searching for or identifying the ball or during the re-creation of the lie, there is no penalty; the ball must be replaced and the lie re-created.
In re-creating a lie under this Rule, the player is permitted to leave a small part of the ball visible.
12-2. Lifting Ball for Identification
The responsibility for playing the proper ball rests with the player. Each player should put an identification mark on his ball.
If a player believes that a ball at rest might be his, but he cannot identify it, the player may lift the ball for identification, without penalty. The right to lift a ball for identification is in addition to the actions permitted under Rule 12-1.
Before lifting the ball, the player must announce his intention to his opponent in match play or his marker or a fellow-competitor in stroke play and mark the position of the ball. He may then lift the ball and identify it, provided that he gives his opponent, marker or fellow-competitor an opportunity to observe the lifting and replacement. The ball must not be cleaned beyond the extent necessary for identification when lifted under Rule 12-2.