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Unplayables in a Bunker - Let's Change a Rule of Golf!

post #1 of 180
Thread Starter 

In talking with @david_wedzik this morning about a chapter in Lowest Score Wins, I pointed out to him that you could not take an unplayable ball in a bunker and drop within two club lengths or on a line back from the hole to escape the bunker.

 

He was surprised by this, and in thinking about it, it struck neither of us as "right" given the other Rules of Golf.

 

This, I quickly decided (and I may rethink it later, but for now I'm sticking to it and arguing this point), is the one Rule of Golf I would change.

 

Why, should a bunker penalize a player more than a water hazard? I'm aware of the fact that you can play a ball out of a bunker virtually every time, and 98% of the time out of a hazard you can't even find your ball without scuba gear and a few free hours - I'm talking about when you choose to take a penalty stroke.

 

So imagine this.

 

I have a bunch of little bushes. Next to them I have a small creek. Next to that, I have a bunker.

 

Three players tee off and each hits a ball into the bushes, the creek, or the bunker.

 

Each decides to take a penalty stroke and drop back, in the fairway, on the line from the hole through their ball. Except the guy in the bunker doesn't get to do it. If he is a poor bunker player, under the Rules of Golf, he could quite literally never get out unless he opts to re-play his tee shot (stroke and distance), effectively a two-stroke penalty while the other players only suffer a one-stroke penalty.

 

It's still early, and I'd love to hear opposition to this, but I'm seriously considering petitioning the USGA to change this rule. I realize that bunkers are not "through the green," but all it would take is the removal of the bolded lines here:

 

Quote:

The player may deem his ball unplayable at any place on the course, except when the ball is in a water hazard. The player is the sole judge as to whether his ball is unplayable.

If the player deems his ball to be unplayable, he must, under penalty of one stroke:

a. Proceed under the stroke and distance provision of Rule 27-1 by playing a ball as nearly as possible at the spot from which the original ball was last played (see Rule 20-5); or

b. Drop a ball behind the point where the ball lay, keeping that point directly between the hole and the spot on which the ball is dropped, with no limit to how far behind that point the ball may be dropped; or

c. Drop a ball within two club-lengths of the spot where the ball lay, but not nearer the hole.

If the unplayable ball is in a bunker, the player may proceed under Clause a, b or c. If he elects to proceed under Clause b or c, a ball must be dropped in thebunker.

When proceeding under this Rule, the player may lift and clean his ball orsubstitute a ball.

 

Just remove that paragraph. What's the harm? Bunkers suck. Most players will continue to play out of them most of the time, but if your ball buries under the lip and you want to take an unplayable, why should you be penalized MORE than if your ball buries in the mud of a creek in a water hazard by having to play from the hazard again?

post #2 of 180

I don't necessarily disagree with your position.  If one were to play devil's advocate, it might run along the lines of one of these two points:

 

a. Bunkers are supposed to be penal and in some instances, more penal than a water hazard.

 

b. Similar errors are at times penalized differently. A ball "lost" in a water hazard or lateral water hazard is treated more leniently than a ball "lost" in tall grass.

post #3 of 180
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by bkuehn1952 View Post
 

I don't necessarily disagree with your position.  If one were to play devil's advocate, it might run along the lines of one of these two points:

 

a. Bunkers are supposed to be penal and in some instances, more penal than a water hazard.

 

b. Similar errors are at times penalized differently. A ball "lost" in a water hazard or lateral water hazard is treated more leniently than a ball "lost" in tall grass.

 

Thanks for playing devil's advocate.

 

I don't know that I agree with A. Bunkers might sometimes turn out to be more penal than a hazard (and this rule is a big part of that), but I don't know that they're "supposed" to be. Who says? I think the overwhelming majority of the time, they're less penal, and they're generally regarded as such. Take for example the Road Hole bunker… people have managed to hole out from it. If instead of sand there were two feet of water there, everyone would take a one-stroke penalty.

 

And I don't know that I agree with B either. Water hazards have distinct lines, and thus you can estimate where they crossed the lines. There are no such lines in tall grass (through the green), and since you've lost track of your golf ball, stroke and distance makes sense.

 

Hazards (water or sand) are not through the green. You can play your ball - without grounding your clubs - from either hazard. Yet from a bunker, you can't drop outside the bunker as you can from a water hazard, despite there being a very clear line that separates "bunker" from "through the green."

post #4 of 180

To me it is similar to OB shots off the tee.  

 

Why should I be penalized on one hole with a shot that is only 20 yards off line to the left, but on the next I could hit it 40 yards left, and just hit from the other fairway back over?  I feel this is a similar argument to your bush, creek, bunker scenario.

 

I actually agree with you (about the sand), but would like to change the OB shots as well.

post #5 of 180
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by 14ledo81 View Post
 

To me it is similar to OB shots off the tee.  

 

Why should I be penalized on one hole with a shot that is only 20 yards off line to the left, but on the next I could hit it 40 yards left, and just hit from the other fairway back over?  I feel this is a similar argument to your bush, creek, bunker scenario.

 

I actually agree with you (about the sand), but would like to change the OB shots as well.

 

This thread is not about OB.

post #6 of 180
Quote:
Originally Posted by iacas View Post
 

In talking with @david_wedzik this morning about a chapter in Lowest Score Wins, I pointed out to him that you could not take an unplayable ball in a bunker and drop within two club lengths or on a line back from the hole to escape the bunker.

 

He was surprised by this, and in thinking about it, it struck neither of us as "right" given the other Rules of Golf.

 

This, I quickly decided (and I may rethink it later, but for now I'm sticking to it and arguing this point), is the one Rule of Golf I would change.

 

Why, should a bunker penalize a player more than a water hazard? I'm aware of the fact that you can play a ball out of a bunker virtually every time, and 98% of the time out of a hazard you can't even find your ball without scuba gear and a few free hours - I'm talking about when you choose to take a penalty stroke.

 

So imagine this.

 

I have a bunch of little bushes. Next to them I have a small creek. Next to that, I have a bunker.

 

Three players tee off and each hits a ball into the bushes, the creek, or the bunker.

 

Each decides to take a penalty stroke and drop back, in the fairway, on the line from the hole through their ball. Except the guy in the bunker doesn't get to do it. If he is a poor bunker player, under the Rules of Golf, he could quite literally never get out unless he opts to re-play his tee shot (stroke and distance), effectively a two-stroke penalty while the other players only suffer a one-stroke penalty.

 

It's still early, and I'd love to hear opposition to this, but I'm seriously considering petitioning the USGA to change this rule. I realize that bunkers are not "through the green," but all it would take is the removal of the bolded lines here:

 

Quote:

The player may deem his ball unplayable at any place on the course, except when the ball is in a water hazard. The player is the sole judge as to whether his ball is unplayable.

If the player deems his ball to be unplayable, he must, under penalty of one stroke:

a. Proceed under the stroke and distance provision of Rule 27-1 by playing a ball as nearly as possible at the spot from which the original ball was last played (see Rule 20-5); or

b. Drop a ball behind the point where the ball lay, keeping that point directly between the hole and the spot on which the ball is dropped, with no limit to how far behind that point the ball may be dropped; or

c. Drop a ball within two club-lengths of the spot where the ball lay, but not nearer the hole.

If the unplayable ball is in a bunker, the player may proceed under Clause a, b or c. If he elects to proceed under Clause b or c, a ball must be dropped in thebunker.

When proceeding under this Rule, the player may lift and clean his ball orsubstitute a ball.

 

Just remove that paragraph. What's the harm? Bunkers suck. Most players will continue to play out of them most of the time, but if your ball buries under the lip and you want to take an unplayable, why should you be penalized MORE than if your ball buries in the mud of a creek in a water hazard by having to play from the hazard again?

 

I do agree with your position.  I'd carry the reasoning even one step farther, in that when you drop in a bunker, the ball is usually going to at least be 1/3 buried - essentially a mini fried egg lie - so you have not only been penalized with a stroke, but you are now stuck with one of the worst lies in golf.  There is something inherently wrong with that excessively punitive process.

 

I'd be happy if the rule for water hazards was applied to bunkers too.  You either play the ball as it lies, or take the penalty stroke and one of the 3 options for a drop outside of the hazard. 

post #7 of 180
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by Fourputt View Post
 

I'd be happy if the rule for water hazards was applied to bunkers too.  You either play the ball as it lies, or take the penalty stroke and one of the 3 options for a drop outside of the hazard. 

 

Precisely. Both are hazards, both have a line that clearly delineates them, and both give you the option to play it as it lies OR take a penalty stroke and drop outside of it… except with a bunker, you have to drop back where you played your last shot. :P

post #8 of 180
Quote:
Originally Posted by iacas View Post
 
Quote:
Originally Posted by Fourputt View Post
 

I'd be happy if the rule for water hazards was applied to bunkers too.  You either play the ball as it lies, or take the penalty stroke and one of the 3 options for a drop outside of the hazard. 

 

Precisely. Both are hazards, both have a line that clearly delineates them, and both give you the option to play it as it lies OR take a penalty stroke and drop outside of it… except with a bunker, you have to drop back where you played your last shot. :P

 

The one thing that I would stress is that it has to be treated the same as a water hazard.  If the player decides to take relief, he must drop outside of the bunker.  If that means that the only reasonable drop is stroke and distance, then he has to decide if the penalty is more favorable for him than the bad lie in the bunker.  

post #9 of 180
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by Fourputt View Post
 

The one thing that I would stress is that it has to be treated the same as a water hazard.  If the player decides to take relief, he must drop outside of the bunker.  If that means that the only reasonable drop is stroke and distance, then he has to decide if the penalty is more favorable for him than the bad lie in the bunker.  

 

I could live with that.

 

Somewhat related, from LSW:

 

(Though I do wonder which would be easier: removing that paragraph from the unplayable ball rule, or lumping bunkers in with water hazards. Removing a paragraph is easy, but bunkers are already hazards with similar rules (no grounding club, etc.), so…?)

post #10 of 180
Quote:
Originally Posted by iacas View Post
 

 

Precisely. Both are hazards, both have a line that clearly delineates them, and both give you the option to play it as it lies OR take a penalty stroke and drop outside of it… except with a bunker, you have to drop back where you played your last shot. :P

I like the idea.  Especially when you add in @Fourputt 's point about the almost certain "fried egg."

 

It's a simple change, it's not going to drastically affect anything (I can count on one hand the amount of times I've seen a pro take an unplayable in a bunker AND the amount of times I've had to do it), and it is logical.

 

However, regarding the bold ... I think Dustin Johnson might have something to say about that. ;-)

post #11 of 180

I don't get the unplayable lie scenario from the bunker, it just doesn't make sense to me to make it a special case. I can understand maybe it's because in England and Scotland that bunkers are so prevalent. I would take out that paragraph about bunkers, and let players drop outside of the bunker if they want to. 

post #12 of 180

For two "hazards", the bunker is generally much less penal than a water hazard and is much easier to play from.  That gives the advantage to the bunker.  In those relatively few instances where you have a lie in a bunker that you can't play, the requirement to drop in the bunker just seems to help even things up a bit.

 

FWIW, I wouldn't have any trouble treating the two alike.  As @Fourputt said, you would have to mandate that the drop occurred outside of the bunker, just as it must from a water hazard.

 

 

Quote:
Originally Posted by saevel25 View Post
 

I don't get the unplayable lie scenario from the bunker, it just doesn't make sense to me to make it a special case. I can understand maybe it's because in England and Scotland that bunkers are so prevalent. I would take out that paragraph about bunkers, and let players drop outside of the bunker if they want to. 

 

Are you saying that bunkers aren't "prevalent" here?   What courses do you play?!  :-D

post #13 of 180
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by David in FL View Post
 

FWIW, I wouldn't have any trouble treating the two alike.  As @Fourputt said, you would have to mandate that the drop occurred outside of the bunker, just as it must from a water hazard.

 

I don't know that you would have to. You could just remove the paragraph I bolded. If you're in a massive fairway bunker but buried under the front lip, you might go back 20 yards and still be in the fairway bunker. You're still taking a stroke penalty, and you're still hitting from a fairway bunker.

 

That said, it really doesn't matter to me, and I'd support whichever of the two options was the simplest to implement. Removing a paragraph seems pretty simple, but the alternative (treating bunkers like hazards, which the Rules already do a fair amount) is probably also pretty simple.

post #14 of 180
Quote:
Originally Posted by iacas View Post
 

 

I don't know that you would have to. You could just remove the paragraph I bolded. If you're in a massive fairway bunker but buried under the front lip, you might go back 20 yards and still be in the fairway bunker. You're still taking a stroke penalty, and you're still hitting from a fairway bunker.

 

That said, it really doesn't matter to me, and I'd support whichever of the two options was the simplest to implement. Removing a paragraph seems pretty simple, but the alternative (treating bunkers like hazards, which the Rules already do a fair amount) is probably also pretty simple.

 

Allowing the drop to happen within the bunker would give a big advantage in options to the bunker, would it not?  If the object is to make the two more equitable, it seems as if the options should be the same.

post #15 of 180

The ubiquitous "they" gave this devil another thought.  Originally, "they" wanted everyone to make the unplayable drop inside any hazard, both bunkers and water.  "They" then decided that it was not practical to expect one to drop another ball in the water and attempt to play it.  On the other hand, dropping in a bunker could actually result in a somewhat playable ball.  Thus the allowance for dropping a ball outside of a water or lateral water hazard but not from a sand filled bunker. Genius!

post #16 of 180
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by David in FL View Post
 

Allowing the drop to happen within the bunker would give a big advantage in options to the bunker, would it not?  If the object is to make the two more equitable, it seems as if the options should be the same.

 

Why should "the object" be to make them more equitable?

 

One is water, the other is sand.

 

Players typically only take unplayable lies in bunkers when something extraordinary happens. They take the penalty… and then still have the 0.5-shot penalty (for a pretty damn good player, otherwise higher) of having to play from the sand.

post #17 of 180

I had one of these situation recently.  The ball was wedged under the lip.  If I swing, which I did, the ball is in the bunker again.  If I drop, I am in still the bunker.  I never thought about the double indemnity of dropping in the bunker, but I agree this could be a practical alternative.  With a good lie, I still only get a sand save 1 in 15 tries.

post #18 of 180
Quote:
Originally Posted by iacas View Post
 

 

Why should "the object" be to make them more equitable?

 

One is water, the other is sand.

 

Players typically only take unplayable lies in bunkers when something extraordinary happens. They take the penalty… and then still have the 0.5-shot penalty (for a pretty damn good player, otherwise higher) of having to play from the sand.

 

In your OP you asked "Why, should a bunker penalize a player more than a water hazard?"  I understood that to mean you wanted the outcome from hitting into an unplayable situation in either hazard to be similarly penal.

 

Did I misunderstand?

 

I can easily think of circumstances where I'd rather drop within 2 club lengths in the bunker rather than having to play from a spot much further away, but outside of the bunker.  It seems to me that you didn't mandate the drop outside of the bunker, as is the case with the water hazard, you're providing a much better set of alternatives to the unplayable in the bunker than you are to that in the water hazard. 

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