• Alistair Tait

No Excuse For Poor Bunker Play


There’s only one problem with the above picture. The rake is on the wrong place.


Most of us would rather that than it not being used at all. Seems quite a few golfers have entered selfish mode recently. They think it’s okay to leave a bunker looking like a group of ramblers have walked through it. Or do such a haphazard job that they might as well have not raked it at all.


Good friend Greg Allen and excellent RTE golf commentator inspired this blog. He asked this question on Twitter the other day:

No, Greg, it isn’t your imagination. Some golfers seem to have forgotten the art of raking bunkers. Perhaps they’re the same ones who forget to fix pitch marks and replace divots?


Raking the sand after we leave a bunker is one of the first things we’re taught when we take up this great game, along with the aforementioned replacing of divots and repairing of pitch marks. I had one friend whose sole desire for becoming club captain was to install web cams on every green to find the culprits who didn’t repair pitch marks at his club. It used to drive him crazy. Just as well he didn’t graduate to the captaincy: I’m not sure capital punishment for failing to repair a pitch mark is acceptable….


Returning to the bunker theme, you won’t find any golf club member who’ll admit to not raking the sand after they’ve played a shot. “Not me, guv. Bloody visitors!”


I beg to differ. I remember playing in a club championship – back when my handicap was good enough to play in the club championship – and my playing companion finding his ball in a foot print in a bunker on the first hole. We were about the 15th group out that day, and the greens staff had presented the course in immaculate condition for one of the biggest days of the year, including ensuring every single bunker was raked to perfection.


My playing companion obviously had no option but to play from the footprint, but he was barely able to contain his rage.

“These are the best players in the club, and one of them can’t be bothered to rake the bunker properly,” he lamented.

We’ve all landed in a bunker recently and noticed damage left behind by another player. Most of us no doubt take the time to rake our own footprints, and those of the culprit who couldn’t be bothered to rake his or her own.


Failing to rake bunkers is bit like slow play: it’s all about selfishness. Those who fail to rake the sand obviously have no thought for fellow players.


As Greg notes, Open champions Norman and Thomson advocated no rakes in bunkers. As you can see from the #JustSaying quote below, architect Charles Blair MacDonald did too.


Bunkers in professional golf usually pose no real threat to the game’s top players because of manicured, perfect lies. They have no excuse for poor bunker play. We do, and it’s hard enough as it is without having to play out of a size 10 footprint. Hence the reason for the recent, Covid induced, temporary local rule of placing balls in the sand.


A response to Greg’s “imagination” tweet hits the nail on the proverbial head:

Spot on. In the Rules of Golf, the R&A and USGA recommends…

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

Most of us would recommend they be used properly, no matter where they’re left.


I mean it’s not hard, is it?


#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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