The Leaf Bunker: Golf’s Most Insiduous Hazard

The Leaf Bunker

The Leaf Bunker is a golf course hazard peculiar to public golf courses in Michigan and other wooded climes in the fall. It is a horror for which there is no known technique for either a) locating your ball or b) hitting a shot out of one if you are lucky enough to located said ball. Further, no manufacturer has designed a club to aid in the endeavor.

I will bet that the rules-writing suits at the USGA have never had to deal with this at their private clubs.

The rules of golf permit probing for your ball when covered by a loose obstruction, but will penalize you if the ball moves in doing so. I have no idea how I was supposed to find my ball without somehow causing it to move. On the other hand, the leaves were so thick that when I finally did find my ball, resting neatly on sand, there was no  way to tell whether I had caused it to move. It seems likely, though. The ball likely was suspended in that rather thick layer and had fallen to the sand as a result of my tossing about.

Further, since this particular Leaf Bunker was knee deep, the penalty for touching a loose obstruction on the backswing was all but unavoidable.

Here are my suggestions for playing out of  a Leaf Bunker:

Start with the club at waist height and to “pump” it a couple of times before turning through and releasing. Leaves disturbed on the swing through don’t come with a penalty.

Do not, under any circumstances, take your eye off the ball’s position. On a windy day, leaves may very well blow across the ball as you are swinging. The ball won’t likely move, but you may not be able to see it. A laser focus on the position is critical or you will become distracted and miss.

Make sure there are no sticks that you can hit on the way through. That’s painful.

Swing hard. A dense layer of leaves absorbs a lot of energy, particularly because the lower reaches are likely to be damp.

Or … and here’s the best advice …

Treat the Leaf Bunker in the same fashion as water in a bunker. Drop the ball at the nearest point of relief inside the bunker.


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