Wednesday, March 15, 2017

Ask Linda #1491-Is a waste area a bunker?

Dear readers,
Please note that the Rule reference at the end of the first paragraph of my answer to #1489 should read 32-2b. Thanks to the many readers who pointed out the typo.

Is a waste area/bunker that’s filled with sand considered through the green or a bunker? Watching a pro tournament, a player’s ball went into a sandy waste area. They said if the player wanted to deem his ball unplayable (one-shot penalty), he had the option to drop two club-lengths that would take him outside the waste area onto the fairway because this area was through the green, not a bunker. His ball was in a small bush and as it turned out he decided to hit it as it lay without penalty. Our course has a few of these sandy waste areas/bunkers but we have always been told by our league that the rules for a regular bunker applied even though we are allowed to ground our club and take a practice swing. This seems contradictory. Please clarify.
Lulu from New Jersey

Dear Lulu,

“Waste areas” (or “waste bunkers”) are not defined in the Rules of Golf. If the area in question meets the Definition of “Bunker” (“a prepared area of ground, often a hollow, from which turf or soil has been removed and replaced with sand or the like”), it is a bunker. If it is a natural, unmaintained area that happens to be sandy, it is “through the green.”

Some courses differentiate so-called “waste areas” from bunkers by supplying rakes for the bunkers and none for the waste areas. Others mark the waste areas with signs. Some choose to explain on the scorecard which sandy areas are considered waste bunkers and are consequently played as through the green.

I don’t like to use the term “waste bunker,” since it is not a recognized golf term and causes some confusion. Your league is clearly confused. If you are permitted to ground your club and take a practice swing, you are not in a bunker, and none of the Rules that govern play from bunkers apply. Thus, if you choose the two-club-length relief option for an unplayable ball, and that distance takes you out of the sandy area and onto the fairway, you may drop your ball on the fairway.

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