When 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?
- If your course or club has a policy regarding rake placement, follow it.
- If no policy exists, put the rake outside the bunker, laying flat, parallel to play.
- Decisions on the Rules of Golf makes fine bedtime reading.
Th-th-th-that’s all, folks!