Are you raking bunkers correctly?

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Raking the bunker should be standard-practice, but do you know the ins and outs of sorting sand?

There is nothing worse than finding your ball plugged in someone else’s footprint or divot in a bunker.

It’s poor etiquette on behalf of the culprit, and yet it’s far from uncommon.

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Whether it’s born out of laziness or lack of understanding, bunkers are rarely raked properly or left in an acceptable condition.

We all have a duty of care to courses we play, so here are some points to remember when leaving the bunker.

Redistribute the sand evenly by raking from the middle of the bunker and refrain from creating any false lips, front or back.

If a rake is not provided, use your foot rather than a club to smooth over the sand. The larger surface area will speed up the process.

Walk backwards to avoid extra footprints.

Where should I leave the rake?

It’s not actually covered in the Rules of Golf, but the R&A’s position is that rakes should be left outside the bunker. It could be argued that this increases the chance of a ball being deflected into or kept out of a bunker.

In practice, however, golfers tend to leave rakes just inside the bunker, which often stops the ball from rolling into flatter sand. Placing a rake in the middle of a bunker also has its drawbacks, as often this requires a player to rake a larger area of the bunker, resulting in delay. 

The R&A considers there to be less likelihood of an advantage or disadvantage to a player if rakes are placed outside of bunkers in areas where they are least likely to affect the ball’s movement.

What if my ball makes contact with a rake?

You can… Remove the rake without penalty, even if it moves the ball while doing so. The ball must be replaced and if it will not come to rest on the spot where it originally lay, it must be placed at the nearest point, no nearer the hole (Rule 20-3d(ii)).

You can’t… Take relief without penalty if the ball fails to stay at rest after removing a rake and there is nowhere inside the bunker to place the ball no nearer the hole. In such cases, you must take a one-shot penalty and proceed under the stroke-and-distance option or by dropping the ball outside the bunker (Rule 20-3d(ii)).

You can… Place or throw a rake into the sand before making your stroke.

You can’t… Smooth sand over after retrieving a rake from the bunker, unless your actions are for the sole purpose of caring for the course. Regardless, you must not improve the position or lie of your ball, stance, area of intended swing, or line of play.

You can… Proceed as normal without penalty if your club touches the sand while moving a rake, e.g. hooking the handle of the rake with the clubhead

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