Grounding Your Club In A Hazard

Welcome to those of you who are finding this site for the first time while searching for information on Dustin Johnson grounding a club in a bunker. I hope you come back often to visit the best written (and oldest) golf blog in existence. You can also sign up for the newsletter and win free golf stuff. The original post follows:

One of those little attended rules of golf is that you’re not allowed to ground your clubs in a hazard. You can take practice swings inside a hazard, as long as you don’t touch the ground. Swishing the top of the grass is permitted, but this seems to me to be an unnecessary risk. Take those swings outside the hazard.

The penalty for grounding your club in a hazard is two strokes.

Rule 13-4 of the Rules of Golf:

Ball in Hazard; Prohibited Actions
Except as provided in the Rules, before making a stroke at a ball that is in a hazard (whether a bunker or a water hazard) or that, having been lifted from a hazard, may be dropped or placed in the hazard, the player must not:

a. Test the condition of the hazard or any similar hazard;

b. Touch the ground in the hazard or water in the water hazard with his hand or a club; or

c. Touch or move a loose impediment lying in or touching the hazard.

Update: The latest professional victim of the rule was Dustin Johnson, who grounded his club in a not-very-well-marked bunker in the 2010 PGA Championship. That kept him out of the playoff, and possibly from a Major Victory.

Mark Wilson, PGA Official said that the

number one item on the local rule sheet as well as on posted notices in the locker room regarding the bunkers was to say that all of the areas that were designed and built as bunkers would be played as bunkers whether or not they were inside or outside the ropes. And the notice in the first item on the rules sheet went on to say that this may mean in the conduct of this championship some areas outside the ropes might have many footprints, heel prints or tire tracks and that nevertheless those are irregularities in the surface from which no relief would be permitted. Although some fo these areas outside the ropes may appear to have changed in terms of what a Tour player might normally expect, that in this unique case, with this great golf course with its many bunkers, they do have many different characteristics and that Dustin just didn’t recognize that fact.”

From the supplementary rules of play the PGA Championship at Whistling Straits:

1. Bunkers: All areas of the course that were designed and built as sand bunkers will be played as bunkers (hazards), whether or not they have been raked. This will mean that many bunkers positioned outside of the ropes, as well as some areas of bunkers inside the ropes, close to the rope line, will likely include numerous footprints, heel prints and tire tracks during the play of the Championship. Such irregularities of surface are a part of the game and no free relief will be available form these conditions.

Note 1: The sand area in front, left and behind No. 5 green in the later water hazard is NOT a bunker (do not move stones).

Note 2: Where necessary, blue dots define the margin of a bunker.

Read the Official PGA of America Statement on the incident.

Before that, a prominent one was Michelle Wie, who let her club touch the ground after hitting her submerged ball from a water hazard. Two strokes.

There’s some video and a discussion here.

Also, note that this isn’t as much about Wie as it is professional golfers who, collectively, seem to have trouble with the rules.

13 thoughts on “Grounding Your Club In A Hazard”

  1. I think that was a bad call on Michelle Wie.  It was clear she was not testing the hazard when her club touched the ground.  Michelle said she had her eyes closed and she felt off balance.  Bad Call

  2. I am somewhat confused.  I did not see the incident and only can go by what has been written.  In reports of the incident, it has been said that Michelle Wie made her stroke and then placed her club on the ground (but within the hazard lines).  It seems to me that the rule relates to actions taken after her stroke.  With the ball no longer in the hazard how does grounding her club make a difference? Did she leave the ball in the hazard after her first attempt?  Or was her action taken prior to making a stroke?

  3. Okay, I just saw a video clip.  Her ball remained in the hazard after the first attempt, although it was now on the grassy bank.  Therefore, her touching the grassy bank with her club could be considered testing the hazard.

    It did not appear to me that she was in imminent danger of falling.  However, if she states she felt off balance and used the club to remain standing, then I will take her at her word.

  4. Michelle has had problems with the rules in the past. As have many other pros.

    Prior to the PGA Tour/PGA split, to get your Tour card, you had to be a regular PGA professional. I assume that meant a more than passing familiarity with the rules.

    They should get back to that. It would save a lot of time with players calling in the rules officials.

  5. I play in some small-time amateur competitions.  It always amazes me how clueless many of the participants are with the rules of golf. If one is playing a casual weekend round, understanding what to do for a lost ball or hazard is not a big deal.  However, once one enters a competition, the rules become crucial.

    If one is going to play a competitive sport at any level, a reasonable knowledge of the game’s rules would seem to be mandatory.  I understand that Tour members are playing for a lot of money.  Still, they should be able to take a drop from a cart path without assistance from a rules official.

  6. I don’t think she was off balance, but she claims she was, so I have a question.

    Can a rules official allow an exception to this rule if he felt that she truly was off balance?

  7. Well, I really want to say something in defense of Michelle Wie, perhaps for the first time on here.  Lets see: I don’t think she meant to ground her club in the hazard.  How about that? 

    As for the balance thing, that is the first defence, and I know that I have certainly felt off balance with the same type of shot – usually I have a lot more flailing than her, and there is no way my white shorts would not be splotched with mud after some attempt.  So she looked great doing what she did.

    However, in the whole “used it for support” if she was losing her balance it was toward the lake, not toward the land, and she placed the club on the land.  Also when grounding it, she was actually letting go of the club, to hold it just by her fingertips.  How does that improve your balance, you don’t even now have that as a counterweight. 

    On the other hand, the grounding occured as part of the first shot, not as part of the second shot.  That is probably irrelevant.

    But I really think they need to avoid calling a player a liar unless it is clear cut what had happened.  Especially when the grounding would result in nothing that could be called “testing” which is what it is supposed to avoid. 

    Also, you say that grounding is a “little” rule of golf.  I think it is a pretty big one.  It applies every time you take a bunker shot – it needs to be forefront in your mind. 

    More than that, what needs to stay forefront in my mind is to put my stinking iPhone and GPS on my bag or cart before venturing into the water with them in my pocket.  That is always an afterthought with me and at some point I am going to ruin at least one $200 device.

  8. I have done that.  My wife called while the phone was in the car- I think the message was about picking up dinner on the way home or something.  But the fact she would not have been able to reach me for the “emergency” had it occurred caused a fight that put my golf in jeopardy. 

    What in the world did people do 20 years ago before you could carry your phone everywhere?  People actually had to go 6 hours at a time without contacting their spouse or kids?

    It is one of the reasons that I like going to the Ozarks, because the phone doesn’t work- or at least she buys that excuse.

  9. Is the penalty for grounding the club per infraction, or is it per hazard/bunker? 

    If it’s per infraction then shouldn’t DJ be assessed 4 more strokes?  and then be DQ’d for signing an incorrect card?

    Grounds it prior to having the shadow blocked.
    Grounds it prior to addressing the ball.
    Grounds it while addressing the ball.

    As soon as I saw his ball I thought bunker and wondered about the inside the ropes/outside the ropes and rules associated with each ie is there a difference.


Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Discover more from GolfBlogger Golf Blog

Subscribe now to keep reading and get access to the full archive.

Continue reading