Rules of Golf: Unplayable Ball in Bunker
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If you are faced with an unplayable ball in a bunker, you will need to proceed using Rule 19.3. From the beginning of 2019, players have an extra option in this scenario. Here is everything you need to know when faced with an unplayable ball in a bunker.
Your first option if you deem your ball unplayable is to go back to where you hit the previous shot and play it again under a penalty of one shot. This might well be your best option if the bunker you are in is particularly nasty.
You can also take a drop within two club lengths of the position of the unplayable lie, no nearer the hole but within the bunker, again under penalty of one shot. Remember that a club length is now the longest club in your bag that day, excluding your putter.
Your next option is to mark the position of your ball and, keeping that spot in a line between you and the flag, go back as far as you want within the bunker. This also comes with a penalty of one shot and there is a handy diagram that explains this on page 119 of the Player’s Edition of the rules. Crucially, if you take this option (or the previous option) the ball is quite likely to plug in soft sand, even when only dropping from knee-height.
Finally, there is an extra option now open to you but this will cost you two penalty shots. You can now go back on a line (between the flag and the original position of the ball) as far as you like, outside the bunker. We have yet to see anyone take this option in competition but if you particularly struggle from sand this could be the best way to proceed.
Finding your ball in an unplayable position in a bunker is always disappointing but at least by knowing the rules, you will know the best way to get the ball back in play.