Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Rules #6-Cink bunker rule

If any of you were watching the Zurich Classic on TV and saw Stewart Cink penalized for raking the sand in one bunker when his ball lay in another bunker (see “Cink Incident” below), you may be interested to know that the USGA and the R&A (Royal and Ancient) re-interpreted this rule at their April meeting. I was wandering around the USGA website today and came across the following announcement:

The Joint Rules Committee (JRC, which is made up of reps from the R&A and the USGA), decided that while Rule 13-4a prohibits a player from testing the condition of a hazard when his ball lies in a nearby, similar hazard (raking would be considered testing the condition), this might seem to contradict the section on etiquette in the rule book that advises players to rake the bunker before leaving it. Not wishing to violate their own rules of etiquette, the new ruling states that if a player’s ball lies in one bunker, it is not a penalty if he smoothes the sand in another bunker, provided that (1) he is doing so in order to neaten the bunker for following players, (2) he is not improving his stance or swing or line of play for his next stroke, and (3) it is unlikely that his next stroke will come to rest in that same area.

Please be aware that it is still a two-stroke penalty to rake the sand in the bunker in which your ball lies BEFORE you hit your ball.

If you would like to read this new ruling in its entirety, visit this link:

Cink Incident
Cink’s ball, incidentally, wasn’t even in the bunker; he had to stand in the bunker to hit his ball which was just outside the bunker. He hit that shot into a greenside bunker. His caddie then raked the bunker he had been standing in to smooth his footprints. It was ruled that Cink had breached Rule 13-4a by testing the conditions of a hazard when your ball lies in a similar hazard (a player is penalized for actions taken by his caddie). Cink was not aware of this rule, so he signed a scorecard that did not include the two-stroke penalty he had incurred. The penalty for signing an incorrect scorecard –for a score that is lower than what you shot– is disqualification, and Cink was therefore disqualified.

Here’s an interesting sidelight: If Cink’s caddie had not raked the trap, Cink would have been fined by the PGA; if Cink returned to rake the trap after playing his ball out of the greenside bunker, he might have been penalized for undue delay; if a following golfer hit a ball that landed in Cink’s footprint in the sand, that golfer would face an unfairly difficult shot. The rule was a bit of a Catch-22 for the golfer, so it would seem that the golf gurus made a wise decision to re-interpret the rule.

Copyright © 2008 Linda Miller. All rights reserved.