May - 2015
It's always good to clearly understand just what is a penalty and what isn't.
Before 2102, if you raked your footprints ENTERING a bunker, you were penalized.
The USGA added an Exception 2 to RULE 13-4 which allows you to rake your footprints or other areas of the bunker before you play your shot, as long as the raking was done for the purpose of caring for the course.
What does that mean to you?
As long as you do nothing to improve the area of your swing or your stance, the lie of the ball or the line of play for the stroke you are about to play, there is NO penalty.
We play a public golf course which means that conditions sometimes are not as they might be at a country club… Sometimes you hit into a bunker (O.K. often)
and the players before you never raked their footprints.
That shot instantly becomes much more challenging that you were expecting, but that's golf.
As a golfer you have a responsibility to care for the course, and the best thing you can do is take a moment and clean up and make the bunker better for the next person.
13-4. Ball in Hazard; Prohibited Actions
Except as provided in the Rules, before making a stroke at a ball that is in a hazard (whether a bunker or a water hazard) or that, having been lifted from a hazard, may be dropped or placed in the hazard, the player must not:
a. Test the condition of the hazard or any similar hazard;
b. Touch the ground in the hazard or water in the water hazard with his hand or a club; or
c. Touch or move a loose impediment lying in or touching the hazard.
1. Provided nothing is done that constitutes testing the condition of the hazard or improves the lie of the ball, there is no penalty if the player (a) touches the ground or loose impediments in any hazard or water in a water hazard as a result of or to prevent falling, in removing an obstruction, in measuring or in marking the position of, retrieving, lifting, placing or replacing a ball under any Rule or (b) places his clubs in a hazard.
2. At any time, the player may smooth sand or soil in a hazard provided this is for the sole purpose of caring for the course and nothing is done to breach Rule 13-2 with respect to his next stroke. If a ball played from a hazard is outside the hazard after the stroke, the player may smooth sand or soil in the hazard without restriction.
3. If the player makes a stroke from a hazard and the ball comes to rest in another hazard, Rule 13-4a does not apply to any subsequent actions taken in the hazard from which the stroke was made.
Note: At any time, including at address or in the backward movement for the stroke, the player may touch, with a club or otherwise, any obstruction, any construction declared by the Committee to be an integral part of the course or any grass, bush, tree or other growing thing.
PENALTY FOR BREACH OF RULE:
Match play - Loss of hole; Stroke play - Two strokes.