Ask the Rules Guy: "Practice" bunkers and swinging fences

Ask the Rules Guy: “Practice” bunkers and swinging fences

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DEAR RULES GUY: I know I’m forbidden to ground my club with a practice swing in a bunker, but what about practicing in an adjacent bunker?
Ronnie Hall, via e-mail

I admire your deviousness, Ronnie, but the Rules don’t approve. Under Rule 13-4, you can’t test the condition of a hazard or any similar hazard before making a stroke. Your penance: two strokes in stroke play or loss of hole in match play.

I hit a drive that came to rest next to an open gate in an out-of- bounds fence. My buddy claimed that the Rules allow me to close it. That so?

Everett Simons, Kingwood, Texas

Ah, if only trees were set on hinges, Phil Mickelson would be a U.S. Open champion. Kudos to your friend, who could leave me jobless with his Rules acumen. Decision 27/18 states that if a gate serving as a boundary fence is open, you may indeed close it—though you may not move it to any other position. That you can meddle with the gate at all is a rare exception because most objects defining out of bounds (fences, walls, etc.) are like John Daly at a slot machine: fixed and therefore immoveable—even if they are moveable. Now if you’ll excuse me, I have a resume to update.