Putting Into A Bunker And The Rules Of Golf

Hi, my name is Barry Rhodes and a few weeks ago Andy asked the question “Who Else Wants To Save Strokes By Making The Correct Rules Decision?” and I can report back that an incredible number of you do!

In fact, if you missed it it isn’t too late to learn how you can save strokes on your round by thoroughly understanding the rules of golf. Simply visit this page about the rules of golf and start saving shots.

The reason I’m writing to you today is to let you know that due to your overwhelming interest in this fascinating topic I will now be handling the support for all questions arising from the golf rules emails. In fact, some of my replies will be shared with everyone on this blog.

So here goes with the first one – particularly useful to know if your bunker play isn’t up to scratch!


“I was asked a question. If a player is on the green and putts but misses the hole and his ball goes into the green side bunker what happens.

His answer was that you can-not putt into a hazard so you can pick your ball up and drop it back on the green.

Is this true?”


“Your questioner was wrong! You can certainly putt into any hazard, bunker or water, and you have to play your next shot from there, or take the appropriate relief under penalty.

A little known fact is that under Rule 28 – Ball Unplayable, you can deem your ball unplayable anywhere on the course, except when it is in a water hazard. One of the options under this Rule is that you can play a ball from the spot from which the original ball was played, under penalty of one stroke. So, for example, you putt down a steep slope from 10 feet above the hole and the ball races past the hole and into a greenside bunker. The above option allows you to pick the ball up out of the bunker and replace it on the green as near as you can to the point where you originally putted from. Obviously, you have to add the penalty stroke to your your score if you do this, but it might be a useful option for a poor bunker player!”

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Disclaimer: Whilst every attempt has been made to ensure the accuracy and reliability of this information on the Rules of Golf I am human and have been known to be wrong! Neither I, nor anyone connected with GolfSwingSecretsRevealed.com, shall be held responsible for any losses caused by reliance upon the accuracy or reliability of such information. Readers should refer to the full text of the rules and decisions as published in the official publications of the R&A and the USGA, The Rules of Golf 2008-2011 and Decisions on the Rules of Golf 2008-2009.

6 Responses to “Putting Into A Bunker And The Rules Of Golf”

  1. Den Stuckinabunker says:

    I’ve read of this option a few times, and it strikes me as a little unfair. If I’m (say) five feet from the pin, and knock it into the bunker, my options are to play it then putt it, or drop it back on the green then putt it. Either way, you end up with the same score.
    The only way you gain by playing it is if you can get it closer to the pin. If you’re not too hot at getting out of the sand the unplayable route is a winner every time.

  2. Barry Rhodes says:


    It is true that you can declare your ball unplayable when it is in a bunker. Rule 28 says; “The player may deem his ball unplayable at any place on the course, except when the ball is in a water hazard. The player is the sole judge as to whether his ball is unplayable.”

    Under penalty of one stroke you can go back to where you played your last stroke but NOT anywhere in between, as this is not one of the three options under Rule 28, the shortest rule in the Rules of Golf.



  3. Is it true that you can declare an uplayable lie when your ball goes in a bunker? And is it true you can go back to where you hit the ball, or anywhere in between, and redo the shot with one penalty stroke. Also, what rules cover this?

  4. Barry Rhodes says:

    Hi John and K.L.

    There is nothing in the 34 Rules of Golf allowing relief from a sprinkler head in a player’s line of play, although there is relief under Rule 24-2 – Immovable Obstruction, if a player’s ball lies in or on the sprinkler head, or when it interferes with the player’s stance.

    However, many Clubs adopt a Local Rule, which does allow relief where the ball can be dropped within one club length, not nearer the hole, without penalty if an intervening sprinkler head is within two club-lengths of the green and within two-lengths of where the ball lies. The R&A offers a specimen Local Rule on this matter in Appendix 1-B-6 to the 2008 Rules Book.

    This is a good example of why no-one should tee-off from the first hole of an unfamiliar golf course without reading the Local Rules.

    Another way in which you might save shots through knowledge of the Rules.



  5. K.L.Saigal says:

    If there is a ” Local Rule ” in the Club that allows a relief ,withhout penalty, from intervation by an immovable obstruction ( sprinkler head ) then you can get a free drop under Rule 24-2. See Appendix 1-B-6

  6. JOHN TILL says:

    If a player elects to putt from the apron of the green
    ( i.e. the closely mown area surrounding the green.) and a sprinkler head is in his line, can he take relief and if so under what guidelines?
    Kind regards
    John Till

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