Bunker Rakes: In or Out?

There may not be a rule regarding bunker rakes, but there is some common sense.

Bunker RakeWhen you’re done raking a bunker, should you place the rake inside or outside the bunker?

That simple question has long perplexed individuals. We hear it’s even been the cause of at least one divorce! What do the rules say about bunker rakes – they sure are a mystery. Let’s get an answer.

In either position – in or out – the bunker can affect a player’s ball. Outside it could knock a ball into a bunker (or prevent it from falling into one), and inside it could keep a ball in a bunker or bury under the rake.

So, what’s the rule? There is no rule! If there was a rule, at least one couple would still be happily married. There are some guidelines, though, as found in Decisions on the Rules of Golf (fine bedtime reading if there ever was any). Decision Misc./2 stats that “Ultimately, it is a matter for the Committee to decide where it wishes rakes to be placed.”

In other words, if your club or course has made this decision, put the rake where they say. (The Sand Trap .com advises against telling players where to put their rake, particularly when they hole out from a bunker to beat you out of $20.)

If there is no such policy, then Misc./2 lays out some general guidelines:

There is not a perfect answer for the position of rakes, but on balance it is felt there is less likelihood of an advantage or disadvantage to the player if rakes are placed outside of bunkers.

A rake placed outside of a bunker may cause a ball to deflect into the bunker, but this is less severe than a situation in which a ball comes to rest against a rake in a bunker. Decision Misc./2 continues:

It may be argued that there is more likelihood of a ball being deflected into or kept out of a bunker if the rake is placed outside the bunker. It could also be argued that if the rake is in the bunker it is most unlikely that the ball will be deflected out of the bunker.

However, in practice, players who leave rakes in bunkers frequently leave them at the side which tends to stop a ball rolling into the flat part of the bunker, resulting in a much more difficult shot than would otherwise have been the case. This is most prevalent at a course where the bunkers are small. When the ball comes to rest on or against a rake in the bunker and the player must proceed under Rule 24-1, it may not be possible to replace the ball on the same spot or find a spot in the bunker which is not nearer the hole.

It’s impractical to leave a rake in the middle of the bunker – you’d have to throw it into the bunker after raking your footsteps on your way out, and by throwing the rake you’d undo much of the work you just did in smoothing the bunker. Plus, nobody wants to walk to the middle of a bunker to retrieve a rake, and rake the whole area, when their ball is on the edge.

Therefore, after considering all these aspects, it is recommended that rakes should be left outside bunkers in areas where they are least likely to affect the movement of the ball.

So there you have it: put the rakes outside the bunker unless otherwise instructed by your club or course. How? The Golf Course Superintendents Association of America (GCSAA) further recommends that rakes be placed flat on the ground, tines up, and parallel to the hole’s direction of play.

How might your course address rakes? There are some creative solutions. Some rakes have a thin metal rod projecting from the tined end of the rake. When you’re done, you simply poke it into the ground, standing the rake up near the bunker. Other courses have sunk tubes near the greens, and ask that players slide the rake down into the tube. The head then lay flat along the ground. Many other courses simply attach rakes to the golf cart, though this is impractical on courses with a lot of walkers.

So, what did we learn?

  1. If your course or club has a policy regarding rake placement, follow it.
  2. If no policy exists, put the rake outside the bunker, laying flat, parallel to play.
  3. Decisions on the Rules of Golf makes fine bedtime reading.

Th-th-th-that’s all, folks!

16 thoughts on “Bunker Rakes: In or Out?”

  1. IMHO rakes should be left in the bunker so that the only shot that can possibly be negatively affected by the rake is a shot that was hit into the bunker. Rules should be such that poor shots are potentially subject to negative outcomes, not better shots.

    In addition, placing the rake parallel to play may further increase the chance the rake may negatively affect a good shot. For example a ball landing on or bounding through the front apron next to a front left or a front right bunker may possibly finish on the green but such a shot also has a chance to strike a rake that is placed parallel to play. If rakes are to be left outside the bunker then IMHO they should be placed so that the bunker is between the rake and the green. That way the only shots that can possibly be affected by a rake are poor shots that are headed toward a bunker. The problem with that is if bunkers are large then restricting such placement of rakes may result in a lot of raking and require longer routes and as a result slow down play. In such cases it would be acceptable to place rakes between the bunker and the green.

  2. It is dangerous to leave a rake with the tines up; a person could easily lose their balance climbing into or out of a bunker and fall on the rake.

    You should never, under any circumstances, leave a rake “tines up” the GCSAA is completely wrong to promote this idea.

  3. Rakes should be left inside of bunkers in order to eliminate their impact on the path of a ball outside of a bunker.

    A bad lie or bounch because of a rake within a bunker is unfortunate but, by USGA definition, a bunker is intended to be a hazard; albeit not much of one for the pros. A golfer must be prepared to accept the good or bad consquences of an errant shot into a hazard.

    A poor lie in a bunker resulting from an improperly replaced rake is a far better outcome than a ball buried in a divot in the middle of a fairway.

  4. In general we keep
    rakes ‘out of the way’ of a ball in play.

    at lateral fareway- and greenbunkers on the roughside / at middlebunkers either side – shaft backward parallel to the general line of play/tines down).

  5. Furthermore, a rake is a moveable obstruction (Rule 24-1)which is allowed to be moved, play the ball as it lies. If somehow the rake buried the shot, you’ve got bigger issues to address in your golf game.

  6. Do you guys read the Recomendation section in the USGA Rules Decisions? USGA recommends OUT.I doubt if very many work-a-day golfers can cite any instances of out rakes affecting their round badly…or helping much. A sand bunker is designed to allow the ball to “gather” at its center. Trapping a ball within inches of the edge of a trap is cruel and unusual puishment…unless you are a Calvinist; in that case, you got what you deserve. If hitting into a trap is a mortal sin, why not have a direct drop to China built in? One reason the pros are so good at escaping is that they usually are not glued to the edge of the bunker.Can you imagine one of those guys getting a lie caused by a rake?
    And, the myth of saving grass cutting labor? Baloney! When the ground crew arrive to deal with the bunkers, they now have to get out and get those rakes out of there so as to be able to prepare that sand. Basically, a trade off. They stand around trying to determine the nicest place to leave that rake. Usually it is the WORST place. But the Greeen Chairman is tickled pink; If he is a Calvinist.

  7. What does being a Calvinist have to with cruel and unusual punishment, golf or whether to leave rakes in or out of the bunker? Very strange.

    I do agree that rakes should be left outside the bunker but they should not be placed so that they may possibly interfere with a ball heading towards the green. I do not know what a “work-a-day golfer” is so I do not know if I am one or not but I have seen a lot of shots negatively affected by rakes that are placed in such a position that they deflect or stop balls that are headed towards the green.

  8. I tend to leave the rake in the trap with a short part of the handle outside
    facing the tee box.

  9. I like to leave the rake at right angles to the lip of the trap with the tip of handle on the edge and tines down, in a flat area of the trap. Reasons? The rake is largely suspended in the air touching only at the tines and tip of handle therefore presenting the least possible obstruction to a rolling ball.. This minimizes the ball being hung up near the lip or on a slope. Finally it minimizes raking.

    Re tines facing up! Do this on a construction site and there would be hell to pay!

  10. I don’t care where they are left as long as they are used properly in the first place (oh as long as it is not against the side or back of the bunker). I don’t buy into the “well it is a hazard” argument – if this was the case then there would be no rakes and no debate such as this.

  11. Re: “Do you guys read the Recomendation section in the USGA Rules Decisions? ”

    The USGA would do well to read John (third comment)
    A hazard is a hazard is a hazard.
    Balls landing outside the hazard should not be subject to the hazard or impact with any of its associated equipment.

  12. prefered text:

    In general we keep rakes ‘out of the way’ of a ball in play:

    at lateral bunkers, roughside next to it and at middlebunkers, either side / tines down and shaft backward parallel tot the holes direction of play.

    Thanks to commentators.

  13. I was told once a long time ago by a very smart fellow that “a rake should NEVER stop a ball from going into a bunker”. Therefore the only place for it is IN the bunker. I always choose to place it closest to the green side, which is usually on the upslope; any ball rolling into the trap that hits the rake is more than likely going to roll back to the collection area of the trap.

  14. Simple question: Why would you place a “foreign object” inside the confines of a “hazard”?? The impact of the rake on a traveling golf ball is irrelevant. A rake INSIDE a bunker that impacts the NATURAL path of the ball seeking a NATURAL lie… is “foreign” to the bunker. It shouldn’t be in there!! A rake OUTSIDE of a bunker that impacts the NATURAL path of a ball seeking a NATURAL lie… is called “rub of the green”. No different than a ball in flight hitting a sprinkler head, yardage monument, cart path, or… God forbid, the flagstick. All of which can affect the golf ball’s NATURAL path either positively, or negatively… RUB OF THE GREEN!! Needless to say… I believe rakes should be left OUTSIDE of bunkers. If you hit one… and it pops in the bunker… I guess that just a bad b”rake”.

  15. Our pro recommends leaving the rake “head in, tines down, handle out”. The rake should not become a man-made hazard outside a hazard. Nothing irritates me more than having my finessed fairway shot heading for a green only to be redirected by a rake left “hazardously” outside a bunker.
    Handles on rakes left that way should offer some clearance for the ball to pass under or over minimizing its impact on play. It’s just the “right thing” to do.

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