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  • Alistair Tait

Haste ye Back Humble Bunker Rake

Amazing how we've taken the humble bunker rake for granted all these years. Other than wishing some golfers would take a crash course on how to use them better, the only really contentious issue has been whether to leave them inside or outside bunkers after raking our footprints. Then Covid-19 hit our world and we realised how much we value rakes.

Imagine getting excited about bunker rakes returning to our courses. The joy of small things.

Some clubs have already seen their return. North Berwick Golf Club tweeted the photo below recently. I wasn’t the only one to like the tweet.

If my experience of golf’s rakeless year is anything to go by, then many golf club members and green fee players will welcome the return of the rake with open arms.

We all understand why rakes, ball washers and flagsticks were taken out of commission during this pandemic. And, let’s be honest, we could live without ball washers and even put up with ingenious devices to stop us touching flagsticks. Bunker rakes? Who’d have thought we’d miss them so much. Or that their absence might be such a source of consternation.

Clubs adopted the sensible rule of allowing players to move the ball six inches in a bunker to mitigate against poor lies caused by previous players. Many of us were a wee bit bemused to say the least by two aspects of temporary rule.

The complete disregard some players showed for those following was astounding. Most made good attempts to smooth the sand with their feet or sand wedge. Some even invested in cheap plastic rakes to do their bit for their fellow, following golfers. However, others simply trod through the bunker, twisted their feet into the sand, splashed the ball out and then trudged back out of the bunker without even thinking about trying to smooth their footprints. By the end of the day, some sand traps looked as if classes of school children had spent the entire day building sandcastles in them.

Perhaps those people who refused to make any attempt at smoothing the sand are the same ones who think it’s okay to ignore pitch marks and not replace divots. Thankfully they are in the minority.

Then there was the extremely liberal use of the relief rule in bunkers, which bordered on taking the proverbial in my opinion.

Like many, I only put the rule into effect if I was in a lie that had been affected by a previous player. I thought that was the purpose of the temporary rule. In the early days of the rule’s implementation, I plugged my tee shot under the lip of a fairway bunker on an uphill lie. I admit that when I realised where the ball had ended up I approached the bunker hoping there were footprints around my ball. Alas, there weren’t so I did what I would have done in a similar situation pre-Covid and hacked the ball out of sand trap.

What surprised me was some took the temporary rule quite literally, including players of many years standing, automatically improving bunker lies even when not in sand disturbed by footprints.

After an initial conversation about the ethical use of the temporary rule, I decided to keep schtum. After all, from a Rules of Golf perspective I didn’t have a leg to stand on. The rule didn’t make any distinction between sand that had been disturbed by a previous shot and sand that hadn’t been. Those who walked into a bunker and automatically moved their ball were completely within their right to do so.

But. It. Just. Wasn’t. Cricket.

That’s why I’m looking forward to welcoming the return of the humble bunker rake. As we say in Scotland, Haste ye back. Ye’ve been away too long.

Oh, and on the subject of where to place rakes in relation to bunkers, in the Rules of Golf under Committee Procedures, the R&A states:

“…it is recommended that rakes should be left outside bunkers in areas where they are least likely to affect the movement of the ball.”

So now you know where to place rakes after you’ve smoothed the damage you made taking your bunker shot. May we never take bunker rakes for granted in future.

#JustSaying: "If I had my way, I’d never let the sand be raked. Instead, I’d run a herd of elephants through them every morning.” Charles Blair MacDonald

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