Dropping in a Bunker
ARDMORE, Pa. – During the first three rounds of the United States Open at Merion Golf Club five players hit shots from bunkers that either went out of bounds or were lost outside the bunker. Rule 27-1 - Ball Lost or Out of Bounds requires the player to play from where he played his last shot (stroke and distance) and since the ball was played from a hazard, Rule 20-5 requires the player to drop the ball in the hazard.
When Dustin Johnson hit his second shot from the bunker over the green and out of bounds just short of the 10th green on Friday, he asked his referee if he could rake the bunker before dropping the ball. The referee replied that he could.
Rule 13-4 – Ball in Hazard covers when a player may rake a bunker before dropping a ball and when he may not. It says that a player may not test a bunker if he is dropping or placing a ball that was lifted from the bunker, back in the bunker. Raking the bunker would be considered testing.
However, Exception 3 to this Rule says that once a ball has been played from the bunker and has come to rest outside the bunker, Rule 13-4a does not apply. Therefore, before dropping the ball in the bunker, the player may rake the bunker.
This would be very different if the player’s bunker shot was driven deep into an unplayable position in the sand (i.e. in the face of the bunker) and he decided to drop it back in the bunker from where he had just played. In that case, since the ball was still in the bunker after the shot, he would not be allowed rake the bunker before dropping.
Written by John Van der Borght, manager of Rules communications for the USGA.