March - 2009

One advantage in writing this Rules section, is that sometimes you get to voice your opinion. Obviously, we all have them. Please allow me to explain one of mine and a personal experience that helped shape my view.

I've been fortunate in the past to have many great experiences with golf on quite a few different levels: I spent 13 years with the S.C.G.A. as a Rules committeeman, 12 years on the Rating committee. I've caddied on the LPGA tour for 7 different women pros, and I've even been lucky enough to caddie for President Ford on 2 different occasions. Like many of you, I also have played golf in different parts of the world-most notably 4 times in Japan. My point in this is that everyone who plays this great game comes into it with different perspectives.

An experience that I had while caddying on the LPGA tour in San Diego taught me a valuable lesson about the responsibility all golfers have when our ball ends up in a bunker.

Because I could make this a very long story, here's the short version: The pro I was caddying for hit her tee shot in a fairway bunker. She played the shot, and I raked it afterwards and placed the rake OUTSIDE the bunker, not knowing that the LPGA had a rule that week requiring that the rake should be placed INSIDE the bunker. Naturally, in the group behind us, a player hits the rake and bounces INTO the bunker. I'm sure you can imagine the profanity-laced "chewing out" that that player's caddie gave me after the round. It got my attention, and it still does.

I've felt from that day forward that rakes should be placed in the bunkers. Here is the U.S.G.A. decision and their recommendation-I disagree, but they do leave it open for the committee to decide.

Misc./2 Whether Rakes Should Be Placed In or Outside Bunkers

Q. Should rakes be placed in or outside bunkers?

A. There is not a perfect answer for the position of rakes, but on balance it is felt there is less likelihood of an advantage or disadvantage to the player if rakes are placed outside of bunkers.

It may be argued that there is more likelihood of a ball being deflected into or kept out of a bunker if the rake is placed outside the bunker. It could also be argued that if the rake is in the bunker it is most unlikely that the ball will be deflected out of the bunker. However, in practice, players who leave rakes in bunkers frequently leave them at the side which tends to stop a ball rolling into the flat part of the bunker, resulting in a much more difficult shot than would otherwise have been the case. This is most prevalent at a course where the bunkers are small. When the ball comes to rest on or against a rake in the bunker and the player must proceed under Rule 24-1, it may not be possible to replace the ball on the same spot or find a spot in the bunker which is not nearer the hole - see Decision 20-3d/2.

If rakes are left in the middle of the bunker, the only way to position them is to throw them into the bunker and this causes damage to the surface. Also, if a rake is in the middle of a large bunker, it is either not used or the player is obliged to rake a large area of the bunker, resulting in unnecessary delay. Therefore, after considering all these aspects, it is recommended that rakes should be left outside bunkers in areas where they are least likely to affect the movement of the ball.

Ultimately, it is a matter for the Committee to decide where it wishes rakes to be placed.