Get familiar with the some of the changes in the new Rules of Golf, before they go into effect on January 1, 2019.
Unplayable Ball in Bunker:
2019 Rule: The player will have an extra option allowing relief outside the bunker using the back-on-the-line procedure, but for a total of two penalty strokes (Rule 19.3b).
Current Rule: When taking relief for an unplayable ball in a bunker (Rule 28), the player may:
- Drop and play a ball only in the bunker itself, if taking relief back on a line from the hole to the ball (Rule 28b) or within two club-lengths of the ball (Rule 28c), or
- Take relief outside the bunker only by taking stroke and distance relief from where the previous stroke was made from outside the bunker (Rule 28a); if the previous stroke was made from the bunker, there is no option for relief outside the bunker.
Reasons for Change:
- It is not uncommon for a player to need to take unplayable ball relief in a bunker, such as when the ball is very close to the bunker wall or lip.
- Players usually take back-on-the-line or lateral relief under Rule 28b or c, partly because it is time consuming and inconvenient to return to where the previous stroke was made from outside the bunker to take stroke and distance relief (Rule 28a).
- Once the player makes a stroke at the ball and it stays in the bunker, there is no longer any option for relief outside the bunker – especially if the ball lies in the very back of the bunker where it is almost impossible to gain any practical relief.
- Playing from a bunker can be very difficult for some players, especially when the bunker has steep walls.
- This can present particular problems in stroke play because the player must finish the hole and so cannot simply pick up and move to the next hole after multiple tries to play the ball from the bunker.
- Giving those players an option for taking relief outside the bunker will allow them to keep playing rather than be disqualified.
- This extra option will result in a total of two penalty strokes, to make sure that:
- The penalty is consistent with the significant amount of relief being allowed, and
- This option does not become commonly used by players who are able to play from a bunker.
- In effect, the player who uses this extra relief option will be penalized one stroke for taking unplayable ball relief and one extra stroke for being allowed to take that relief outside the bunker using the back-on-the-line procedure.
- This relief will be philosophically consistent with other Rules that provide that, when an obstruction or abnormal ground condition interferes with the play of a ball in a bunker, the player has the option to take free relief within the bunker itself or the extra option to take relief for one penalty stroke by playing from back-on-the-line outside the bunker.
For more information on the new Rules of Golf, visit usga.org/rules.