Ask the Rules Guy – Sand Slide

Ask the Rules Guy

Rules Guy,

I hit a drive into a bunker with a steep slope and carefully made my way down to my ball. Apparently I wasn’t quite as careful as I thought though, because the sand started to slide out from under my feet, all the way to the ball, moving it several inches back away from the hole. Not knowing what to do, I asked my (very competitive) friend/opponent, who said that I had to take a penalty stroke for moving my ball., and replace it in the original spot I decided to believe him, even though it seemed fishy since I didn’t actually touch the ball and since it moved away from the hole. Was my friend right, or should I find a new playing partner?

— Tim Smith, Portland, Ore.

This is one case where the Rules Guy feels your pain: there is nothing worse than having to tip-toe into a deep bunker for fear of starting a sand slide. Unfortunately, the Rules of Golf are not nearly as sympathetic. According to Decision 18 2b/3, if your approach to the ball or the act of taking your stance in the bunker is what caused the ball to move, you were in violation of Rule 18-2a which prohibits moving a ball at rest. Your buddy even got the penalty right—replacing the ball and taking a one-stroke penalty. Keep your honest playing partner around, and next time try to be a little bit lighter on your feet.