Ask the Rules Guy: Red stakes, bushes and backswings

Ask the Rules Guy

BRANCHING OUT
If your ball is lying inside a red stake area and there is an object like reeds or branches is it a penalty if you brush them on your back swing?
-- Wesley Maddy, via Facebook.com

There are more does and don’ts in a bunker than even some of the most studious Rules aficionados can keep track of, but this one is actually pretty simple. Rule 13-4 deals with playing a ball as it lies in a hazard, and the note spelling out some exceptions to the Rules deals with this exact case.
The note reads: “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.” In other words, if you smack a bush on your backswing, you’re totally in the clear.

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