By Richard Todd
Do you want to sound super smart, like a Rules Official on the golf course?
During your next round, simply use the phrase, “Penalty Area.”
This is the new term used by the USGA that replaces and encompasses, water hazards and bunkers. So regardless, if it’s sand or water it’s now a ‘penalty area’.
Regardless of the name, what actions can you perform in a bunker, hazard, or penalty area?
USGA rule #13-4 currently prohibits touching the ground in a hazard with your hand or club; or moving any loose impediment lying or touching the hazard, plus you are not allowed to ground your club in a penalty area.
If your ball, in bunker or water hazard, is resting against a stick you are not given any relief. And don’t let that club hit the ground until you swing.
Failure to follow this rule comes with the standard loss of hole in match play and two-stroke penalty in stroke play.
That will change in 2019 when Rules 12.2a and 12.2b will allow the player to touch or move loose impediments in a bunker, and will generally allow the sand to be touched with a hand or club!
Limitations to this rule include deliberately touching the sand in a bunker with a hand, club, rake or other object to test the condition of the sand to learn information for the stroke, touching the sand in a bunker with a club in making a practice swing, in grounding the club right in front of or behind the ball, or in making the backswing for a stroke.
The USGA also encourages these new rules to be used immediately!
The next time you’re in a hazard go ahead and move that leaf! If your competitor calls foul let him know you’re using the USGA’s 2019 modernization rules.