Rules Question regarding Bunkers

Hi all,

I read a snippet yesterday from a rule guy. He gave the answer about a bunker question…Now I’m going to take it a step further with a couple scenarios and I honestly don’t know the answer.

Both you and your playing partners nads land in the sand side by side within 2 inches of each other…

Player 1 marks his ball and lifts allowing Player 2 to hit because player 2 cannot play the shot without hitting player 1’s ball… Now what happens? Does player 2 rake the area, does Player 1 have to drop? or does he place the ball in the crater Player 2 just made? Does Player 1 place the ball on a raked area that Player 2 where player 2 just played from?

Even better Player 1 is closer to the hole by an inch side by side, Both balls are in a footprint. Player 2 has to play out of the footprint…What does player 1 now do…Rub of the Green?

I know there are a couple guys that are way better than me with these tricky questions…
Love to hear

I think I saw this happen on tour last season. I may be misremembering, but my impression was that the goal was to, as best as possible, place the ball back where it was with the same lie. Since this was a pro event, they didn’t have footprints to deal with, and I don’t remember if they raked in between the shots.

My thinking goes like this:

  • Both players deserve the consequence of landing in the bunker.
  • The first player deserves to play that shot without fear of interfering with the second player’s ball.
  • The second player does not deserve a disadvantage due to interference from the first player.
  • The second player also does not deserve an advantage (better lie, raked bunker, etc) just because the first player happened to land in the bunker with them.

Whatever the technical rules are, I don’t think that anybody would raise a stink about following those guidelines.


Interesting, train of thought. I have an official inquiry going out to PGA Class A Pro, who is also a rules official. If I get a definitive answer I’ll post it. Dave is usually amazing on here with accurate info… he’s usually Johnny on the Spot with the Rules Answers…He does it for a living on one of the Tours I think.

The issue is sometimes the Rules of Golf can be very advantageous to a golfer, and sometimes the Rules of Golf will feel horrible and detrimental to a golfer. For instance, you can Roast a drive down the middle and end up in a 2inch FW divot not even filled with sand, and your partner can push his drive into some rough about 1 foot off the FW into deep rough, but there may be a slight depression and there was some “casual water” pooling in the area from a leaky sprinkler head and you get a free "Lift, Clean and Drop onto the FW!

Here’s one that happened to me in a club match: I was stuck behind a tree, but my stance was on a cart path. the player I was playing against said I had to keep the tree in line … WRONG! it was not the nearest point of relief within a club length no nearer the hole. So I got a drop, that kept rolling back onto the path, at which time I got to place the ball onto a decent lie and was able to get up-n-down for a par that actually won me the hole, because the other guy 3-jacked!

Again, both players land on the BEACH one inch apart in a footprint right next to one another, one player gets to mark and lift, one player has to play out of a footprint, second player will get to play out of a nicely raked area from literally the exact same spot. That sounds so unfair, but hitting a 350yd drive into the middle of the FW and the stops rolling in a 2inch crater, unfilled divot is fair either… Rub-O-The-Green I suppose!

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I agree with bri256

Rule 14.2d(1) - Where to Replace Ball When Original Lie Altered, Ball in Sand

  • In replacing the ball on its original spot (which if not known must be estimated) (see Rule 14.2c, the player must re-create the original lie as much as possible.
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Thanks, I don’t disagree. I’ve actually put it out to the USGA and waiting for the answer. Trying to re-create a footprint is virtually impossible, because you don’t know if the lie was packed, loose, how high was it etc… This will be interesting!

By all means, I’m not fond of drilling and interpret the rules of golf.
“Play it where it lies” is on the first page of the rule book.
I’d be curious of how elaborate the officials will interpret the situation you had described.
Nevertheless, I believe whoever hit first, the next golfer has the right to replace his golf ball to the position and the condition as closely as possible, recreate the lie if possible. It will be a sticky situation since there is no way of returning the condition to prior the first golfer hit his shot.
In this regard, the second to play has a slight edge same as the second to putt on the similar line will get a read from the first putt.

As close to, is what I think would be fair to both golfers, no matter who hits it first. I also think no matter who hits it first, the sand needs to be returned to the current condition, as close as possible. So whoever is farther away from the pin gets the choice.
Please, let us know the reply from the USGA regarding this. They are also short handed at this time,just like everyone else.

Here is the official ruling from a rules official who actually had to call the USGA. I caused a kerfufel and it looks like they may add an addendum to 15.3🤣

Nice one!

I called the USGA to confirm but basically, Player 2 would rake his divot and footprints and then Player 1 is going to be the beneficiary of this situation as he does not have to recreate the footprint.

There is no official rule that addresses this situation, only rule 15.3

So there it is!


I have another rules scenario now…I’d like to see how this would be handled. Player 1 hits a drive into the FW but into a divot, Player 2 hits a drive just off the FW (like 1 foot) in a small depression in the rough! Horn sounds to suspend play, for a passing thunderstorm. Players mark their positions. It pours pretty hard. Play resumes an hour later and the Players go out to their position to re-place their balls. The FW perfectly drained! It is not L,C,P because that has to be declared before the Round starts. Player 2 goes to place his ball and there now is a small pool of water over his mark. Placing the ball there now constitutes “Casual Water”. I assume Player 2 can now take a club length away from where the water pooled in his original lie and drop in the FW? Gosh that sounds so unfair!

I thought casual water was drop at the nearest point of relief not a club length. The only way they could get back to the fairway would be if all the rough was under water not just his lie. Correct me if I am wrong.

Free Relief from Abnormal Conditions

Rule 16

Some of these rules I’m quite familiar with and yes it is a full club length, Driver being optimum, in my scenario, it takes you into the FW

It doesn’t matter that the original ball was 1 foot into the rough. If an abnormal condition like a depression in the rough where water pooled, you get a club length, no nearer the hole and if you are in that semi circle you get a drop.

My question is: Does that rule apply when the condition did not originally exist, but when you go back out, now it does exist? I believe if, it exists after a play suspension, you get a drop.

You would have to get a drop as you always get relief from casual water

I believe the player 2 could drop his ball no closer to the hole but not in the fairway. He gets a freebie for not having to play out of the small depression but he should not be relieved out of the rough. So the nearest point of relieve still in the rough, within a club length no closer to the pin would be the relieve point. Dropping into the fairway would be improving his lie.

No sir, That’s where everyone gets it wrong. Look at the Link I sent regarding Rule 16. It’s within that club length semicircle…No Nearer The Hole. If it takes you out into the FW, from casual water or any abnormal ground condition, That’s what it is! read about what happened to me in a tournament match on my OP. My partner insisted I had to keep a tree in line, that is wrong. It is nearest point of relief no nearer the hole. I dropped 2x onto a slope and the ball rolled back on the cart path, I then got to place it on a level lie, on a cushy lie, I flopped to 4ft made par, partner was so POed he 3 jacked his putts and lost the hole…where at worst he should have halved it and ended up losing a match 2 &1 because of it.

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There are exception to the rules, in line with the first and the most important rule in golf if we decided to play by the rules. Which is not allowed to improve on the lie at any time.
I have a book of the decisions for the exception to the rules. I’ll have to find it somewhere in the pile.
It is a no brainer not to allow imporvement of the lie from the rough even the rule stipulate a semi-circle of one club length as the radius. The closest relieve point would be back in the rough, and if the semi-circle is not large enough to escape the standing water, then an official will decide where the nearest point of relieve would be out side of the area allowed by the rules. 99% certain it will not be back into the fairway.
If Dave is here, he will confirm on this. It is the same as a drop in the numker; must be dropped within the bunker and not outside of it.

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Okay, as the rough is part of “through the green” and not within the hazards. With the casul water, the golfer 2 could drop the golf ball outside of the rough without penalty according to the rules for one club length, no closer to the pin and this will be considered as “bub of the green” a lucky break.

Correct… a ball in an abnormal condition in a bunker like pooled water is allowed, but it must be dropped in the bunker. I do believe even if the drop would be closer to the hole. I’m actually really familiar with Rule 16. Standing water (casual water) is an abnormal condition. It also is a drop if your stance is in it too! So what constitutes standing water? If there is like a shallow puddle and your ball is sitting in it, that’s casual water and you are granted relief. What about your stance? If you are taking a fair stance and water comes out of the ground (damp turf kinda thing…) That’s considered casual water. I know, a USGA rules official granted that to me in a tourney. Here’s another one, ball lands on the green 20 ft away, your line happens to have you putt through some black, leaf spot that has just eaten the turf… diehards putt through it, but technically, and according to the rules, you can move to the nearest area, 20 ft away and continue from there. A red or yellow stake marking a penalty area can be moved if it impedes the swing or the shot as it is considered a moveable obstruction, but not if that stake happens to be set in concrete…NOT A WHITE STAKE! You can only move a white stake if it is perpendicular to a hole and you are like a few feet away…if you are like 6 inches away from the stake…that’s actually considered a “Forbidden Area” and moving it would be considered improving your lie. Crazy stuff!

I used to know a group of diehard gamblers ( not high rollers but like to bet on almost everything and none of them were below a 10 index) . Their private rules on the golf is simply play it as it lies. No lift with penalty stuff. No hazrads, so one could be giving up the hole or surrander the round if his golf ball gets stuck somewhere with unplaybvle lie.
Crazy guys will say to their opponent with an approach shot over the water to the green - $50 say you could not get on the green ( where it was just 140 yards to clear the hazards. Then the opponent will promnptly dunk the shot into water.
Casual water ? No lifting.
If the golf ball went into water hazard, then have to go back to the original spot to hit again, plus 2 ( stroke plus penalty and distance).
Personally, I had learned of the O.B. stake in a hard way. One of my tee shot was in bound but I had to stand next to a white stack for my next shot. The white stake was not firmly in the ground and was moved ( fell down) when touched. This was some 3 decades ago, no one in my group knew much about the rules.

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That’s a laudable, spirit-of-the-rules norm. But I don’t believe it’s actually the Rule.

Agreed that @davep043 is a fantastic resource for these questions. I’ll see if I can bug him for an answer, if he doesn’t jump into this thread.

1000%. As I understand it, in ‘serious’ Vegas etc golf betting, you: Do. Not. Touch. Your. Ball. Unless you’re hitting it, ofc.

But they do all sorts of weird additions/ignoring of rules too. Like, no limit on # of clubs (unless negotiated before hand.) No giving taking of strokes. Instead, they do things like hitting it from different spots, etc… Greasing the ball used to be A-OK.

Rick Reilly’s book, “Who’s Your Caddy?,” goes into detail about these games, during the chapter with Dewey Tomko.

Fascinating stuff, and I had the same feeling reading it as I did as a chess player, walking through Washington Square in NY, seeing a kid sitting by himself at the chess tables with a clock and a bag of pieces. I.e., I have absolutely zero business getting within a mile of one of those games.

Still fun to read about.

I’d suggest that 15.3b(2) says Player 2 has to replace his ball (referencing 14.2 which deal with replacing a ball), so we refer to 14.2d(1), which tells us what to do when Replacing a Ball on its Original Spot in a Bunker, when the Original Lie of the Ball has been altered. That says Player 2 must re-create the original lie as much as possible. So he’d need to make a footprint and put his ball in it. I realize this differs from the advice you got, you might run my explanation past your guys to see if it changes their mind.
As for the second situation, the Reference Point for a Ball in Temporary Water (not casual anymore) is the Nearest Point of Complete Relief for the Player’s Stance and area of Intended Swing. The Relief Area extends one clublength from that spot, no nearer the hole, and must be in the same Area of the Course as the Original Location (General Area in this case). Fairway and rough are both in the General Area, so the Player can drop the Ball in the Fairway as long as its still in the Relief Area.

Only if that black leaf spot has been defined by the Committee as Ground Under Repair, otherwise no Relief.

Usually White Stakes are used to indicate or define Out of Bounds, and so are within the Definition of Boundary Object. You may NOT move a Boundary Object, nor do you get any other kind of Relief from it.

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