Aug 8, 2012

Golf Etiquette Issues: Bikinis & Bunker Rakes... and a Day at the Beach

I wrote about bunker etiquette a few years ago after I encountered more than my fair share of the hated hazards during an otherwise enjoyable round.

I'm republishing a segment of that post today because I know I'll be spending some time in the sand today. You see, I've got some friends visiting from Europe... and I'm taking them to the beach. 

Bunker etiquette is somewhat ambiguous, and often subject to debate. The controversy frequently begins with the rake, and that age-old question: should it be left inside or outside of the sand trap? In fact, there is no official rule on that subject. The USGA, does have a guideline however, it's known as "out and down", which simply means the rake should be left outside the bunker, facing down. And that's fine. Except that there are some who feel the spindly sweeper is better left inside the bunker so as to avoid having it block the hapless trajectory of the next ball that happens to make a beeline for the beach. And I've got to admit that actually happened to me once. My ball sped towards the sand only to be stopped, a half an inch short, by a well positioned rake. I responded fittingly by jumping up and down with glee and shouting "Yay"! Multiple times over.  My fellow players were not amused by the incident (or my immature reaction).

Ultimately though it's up to the course to decide where and how they want the rake positioned after use...and up to the players to inform themselves and follow the club's policy. The actual raking of the bunkers can also be an issue. For example, how thorough should one be in their sand smoothing? I've noticed that men tend to be much more meticulous than women when it comes to the bunker sweep. I wonder why? Perhaps because women feel the activity is a little too much like housework. I've heard some men do housework too, however I've never met one that did.

The Etiquette Section of the Rules of Golf now allows that "Before leaving a bunker, players should carefully fill up and smooth over all holes and footprints made by them and any nearby made by others." The rule was recently updated with an exception to distinguish between testing the condition of a hazard and tidying up the bunker.

Finally what about bunker behavior as it affects pace of play? That... like many a pace of play polemic... should be intuitive. If you're playing on an ultra busy course, forget about winning the Good Housekeeping award. Just give the trap a quick brush to smooth it out, and move on as quickly as possible.

And speaking of sand traps and busy courses, if you can't get your ball out of the trap in a couple of tries you'd be well advised to surrender to the hazard. That is: pick up your ball and drop it outside the bunker for further play. I know no one likes to surrender, but you won't have to if you remember the No. 1 sand trap rule: The best way to get out of a bunker is not to get into it in the first place.

This video from provides some additional instructional info ... and the one below, from FORE! Minnesota, is just plain funny.