Rules of Golf: What Can I Move in the Bunker, or Water Hazard?

Kate’s Rule School – Weekly Tips

It is a real bummer when you mishit a shot. The salt on the wound is when you arrive at the bunker and see your ball adjacent or leaning against the rake or something like a pine cone. You take one look and you are just angry! Is there anything you can do? Can you remove the upsetting item without penalty?

Definition to know:

loose impediments: ‘loose impediments’ are natural objects including: stones, twigs, leaves, branches and the like; dung and worms and insects; and heaps made by them provided they are not fixed or growing, solidly embedded or adhering to the ball.  Sand and loose soil are ‘loose impediments’ on the putting green, but nowhere else.


Kate is having a great day on the course. She is upbeat and enjoying the day with her friends. That is until she hits her approach on the 17th hole into the greenside bunker. She shakes off the initial feeling of ‘oh no’ and walks with confidence to her shot. However, when she arrives, she sees her ball is in the midst of some loose impediments. She would like to move the small branch and pine needles. Is she allow move any loose impediments in the bunker?

Loose Imepediments


Throughout most of the course, ‘loose impediments’ may be removed if they are interfering with your play. These do include natural objects such as rocks, leaves, twigs, insects, pinecones, etc. On the putting surface only you can also remove sand and loose soil.

HOWEVER, in hazards (bunkers and water hazards), you are not allowed to move loose impediments like a small branch, pine needles, stone, leaf,  etc.

Unfortunately, it is ‘rub of the green’ and you must play the ball as it lies and with whatever lies with it. Swing hard because the loose impediments are going to fly out with  the ball.

If Kate was to reach down and move the loose impediment, she would incur a 2-stoke penalty. So Kate, don’t touch a thing in the bunker!

Note: You are allowed to move ‘movable obstructions’ that are artificial objects, such as rakes, bottles, cans, etc. located anywhere on the course (including a bunker) without penalty. And if you move a rake that your ball is up against and the ball moves, you must replace your ball as near as possible to its original position–no penalty.

Final Thoughts

It is a real bummer when your ball lands on a hazard and you have to negotiate various loose impediments. But know that you can do anything you set your mind to and get that ball back in play despite the obstacle you must overcome.

Don’t forget, when you enter any hazard, it is not in your best interest to lean down and touch anything.

Have a great round and we here at Bunkers Paradise want you to know the rules so you have a more enjoyable experience on the course. We love our golfing community.


‘keep smiling and always believe’


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