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  1. Note/Edit (a few days later): I wanted to put this at the top, because I was wrong about this rule and it's basically this: you can do virtually anything with your feet in a bunker that doesn't affect the CATS (conditions affecting the stroke - your lie, your area of stance or swing, etc.) and it's not a penalty. https://www.usga.org/content/usga/home-page/rules/rules-2019/rules-of-golf/rules-and-interpretations.html#!ruletype=fr&section=rule&rulenum=12&subrulenum=2 Rule 12.2b(1) says that you cannot "Deliberately touch sand in the bunker with a hand, club, rake or other object to test the condition of the sand to learn information for the next stroke, or…". But, 12.2b(2) also says: I got into a discussion elsewhere about this. It began when one player said he dug his feet in six feet away from the ball. He didn't make a practice swing or anything, he just dug in, moved up to his ball, dug in again, and hit his shot. My initial reaction was that likely constituted a breach for testing the condition of the bunker: I believe you can't ever "specifically" test the condition of the bunker, unless you're doing it as a byproduct (not the main intent) of something that's allowed like taking your stance, setting clubs down that you don't want to use, or some of the other exceptions in (2). The definition of a "stance" is "The position of a player’s feet and body in preparing for and making a stroke." A stroke is not a practice stroke, as it's defined as "The forward movement of the club made to strike the ball." So, I also believe(d) that you couldn't take a stance for a practice swing well away from the ball, because you're not setting up to strike the ball. Intent matters here. Michelle Wie grounded her club in a hazard (yes, in the pre-2019 Rules) and reportedly lied and said she was doing so for balance (an allowed action), but they determined she was full of it and penalized her for grounding her club in the hazard. I believe the same kind of standard holds here: the intent matters. You can lean on a club in a bunker for balance, but if you're just sticking a club in the sand, then some judgment calls might need to be made. What constitutes "other objects" isn't made clear. Do shoes constitute "other objects"? If they don't, does a glove? In short, my contention was that you couldn't dig in to the sand six or ten feet away from your ball because the only real purpose for that would be to test the condition, and that's forbidden. I was somewhat surprised when someone called the USGA's rules line and talked with them, and they told him what I've posted below. I'm going to quote him quoting them, so even though this is in a quote box, it's third-party and isn't an exact quote. I had a hard time believing this to be true. The same person came back with what amounts to this (emphasis added by me in posting it here): So, I filmed this video: I still have a hard time believing the actions in that video are "legal." What am I doing if not testing the condition of the bunker, repeatedly, nowhere near my ball? Now, I've seen a few people say "you can't gain information digging in somewhere else that you can't gain by digging in to your ball," and to that I say "poppycock!" Of course you can. If a player could gain all of the possible information available to be gained by digging in once, why is there a penalty at all for testing the condition? Why did what Pinto's caddie did in the U.S. Am result in a loss of hole? Also, it fails basic logic: if you're testing to see how ripe a fruit or vegetable is, you often don't just push or tap in one place. You test a few places. Of course there's more information to be gained than by digging in to one specific spot. Three more points, and then a summary: I specifically remember a discussion about this rule in a recent Rules seminar I attended. The discussion semi-jokingly included saying how a player could could avoid being penalized for some of the bunker infractions if he said "I was caring for the course." Questions involving this were on the test. We talked about digging in to a spot not near your actual stance, and the conclusion (I wrote a bit of this down, and I almost never take notes) was that it would possibly or likely be a breach for testing the condition. This is one of the few Rules where "intent" matters. Again, the Michelle Wie thing springs to mind. If in the video above I'm clearly "testing the condition," then I think that renders the (2) part of the rule invalid, and I'm penalized under part (1). The 2018 Rules of Golf included a Decision, 13-4/0.5, that defined what "testing the condition of the bunker" meant. It said you could dig in to take a stance for a practice swing anywhere in the hazard or even in a similar hazard, without penalty. So, there's "kind of" a precedent for allowing you to do this with your feet… but at the same time, they changed the language of the Rule itself for 2019+ and the 2018 Rules literally don't matter at all in the context of 2019 Rules. They have no weight whatsoever. I think the language of this rule is lousy. What is "an other object"? Can you test the condition of the bunker with your elbow? It's not your hand, a rake, or a club. It's not an "other object" - it's a body part. What about a glove? What if the glove is on your hand? Or off your hand? When does a player cross the line from digging in legally to digging in excessively and nowhere near his golf ball in order to continually add to his knowledge of the bunker and conditions? Or are the USGA/R&A really just saying "do whatever you want so long as you don't say 'I am going to test the condition of this bunker," do so with your fingers like Pinto's caddie, or improve the CATS"? Again, I doubt they are saying that. What do you guys think? @Rulesman, @fredf, @Asheville? Maybe I'm still completely wrong. Maybe the USGA/R&A really don't give a crap what you do in a bunker so long as, again, you don't: say "I'm testing the condition" improve or change the CATS touch the sand with your fingers/hand in not removing a loose impediment or other allowed acts. But I think, still, that you can be penalized for "testing the condition" even if you do so by digging in with your feet away from the ball (especially if you do so repeatedly). P.S. The Michelle Wie conversation is here.
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