Originally Posted by Ignorant
Originally Posted by Fourputt
It's a bit more difficult to rule if the player in the bunker is away, but you have a legitimate reason for playing first. He may have crossed the fairway help a fellow competitor in a ball search, but your group is out of position and you decide to play before helping with the search. You move the branch thinking of nothing but the pace of play concern, but now you have also improperly improved his lie. I think that intent has to come into the ruling.
Why? And what's intent got to do with this? As you say, he did it without thinking, i.e. without intent.
My point is that he did it with the intent of facilitating adherence to another rule (pace of play), and thus the etiquette issue that Rulesman raised should not be considered in the ruling. There was no breach of etiquette, nor any intent to do so.
Had he moved the branch with the same thought, but then realized that there was no reason to be concerned with pace of play because the group in front of them was still in range, then that new point should be considered. It probably won't change the ruling, but it's just another factor that must be weighed by a rules official in making a decision.
If he had no reason to move it early, but did so to help his fellow competitor just because he's a nice guy, then he is guilty of a breach of etiquette for giving his FC an unfair advantage over the field, and the case should be presented to the committee for adjudication. In such a case the FC would not be penalized unless it was a conspiracy, only the player who moved the stick.