You can not test the surface of a bunker. This decision helps in explaining what that means.
Meaning of "Test the Condition of the Hazard" in Rule 13-4a
Q.What is meant by "test the condition of the hazard" in Rule 13-4a?
A.The term covers all actions by which the player could gain more information about the hazard than could be gained from taking his stance for the stroke to be made, bearing in mind that a certain amount of digging in with the feet in the sand or soil is permitted when taking the stance for a stroke.
Examples of actions that would not constitute testing the condition of the hazard include the following:
- digging in with the feet for a stance, including for a practice swing, anywhere in the hazard or in a similar hazard;
- placing an object, such as clubs or a rake, in the hazard; (Placing includes throwing.)
- leaning on an object (other than a club) such as a rake while it is touching the ground in the hazard or water in a water hazard;
- touching the hazard with an object (other than a club) such as a towel (touching with a club would be a breach of Rule 13-4b); or
- marking the position of the ball with a tee or otherwise when proceeding under a Rule.
Examples of actions that would constitute testing the condition of the hazard in breach of Rule 13-4a include the following:
- digging in with the feet in excess of what would be done for a stance for a stroke or a practice swing;
- filling in footprints from a previous stance (e.g., when changing stance to make a different type of stroke);
- intentionally sticking an object, such as a rake, into sand or soil in the hazard or water in a water hazard (but see Rule 12-1);
- smoothing a bunker with a rake, a club or otherwise (but see Exception 2 to Rule 13-4);
- kicking the ground in the hazard or water in a water hazard; or
- touching the sand with a club when making a practice swing in the hazard or in a similar hazard (but see Exception 3 to Rule 13-4).
The club that you hold in your hands, you can not touch the hazard with it until the downward movement of your stroke to strike the ball. So with this club, you can not touch the bunker, accidently or otherwise, until then.
There are some exceptions. One is to prevent falling. Another is in searching for a ball in sand.
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, 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.