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round­ing your club in a haz­ard, whether sand or wa­ter, will lead to a penalty as Shona McRae, R&A as­sis­tant direc­tor – Rules, ex­plains, with ref­er­ence to Anna Nordqvist’s re­cent un­for­tu­nate breach dur­ing a play-off for the pres­ti­gious US Women’s Open ti­tle...

Anna Nordqvist was pe­nalised for ground­ing her club in a fair­way bunker on the 17th dur­ing the sec­ond hole of a play-off with Brit­tany Lang to de­cide the 2016 US Women’s Open at Cordevalle in North­ern Cal­i­for­nia. The pair were tied on level par after the first play-off hole.

When play­ing her ap­proach to the green from a fair­way bunker, TV ev­i­dence showed that her 5-iron had gen­tly grazed the sand when she be­gan her back­swing, re­sult­ing in a breach of Rule 13-4b.

GRule 13-4b pro­vides that a player can­not touch the ground in the haz­ard or wa­ter in a wa­ter haz­ard with the hand or a club be­fore mak­ing a stroke. The pur­pose of this Rule is to take away any doubt as to whether the ground­ing of the club be­hind the ball has im­proved the lie of the ball in ei­ther the sand or the wa­ter. It also makes the stroke slightly more dif­fi­cult but the bunker is a haz­ard and is, after all, in­tended to re­ally test the skills of a player.

The Def­i­ni­tion of Stroke in the Rules of Golf clar­i­fies that the stroke be­gins only once the player has be­gun the for­ward move­ment of the club with the in­ten­tion of strik­ing at and mov­ing the ball. There­fore, the back­swing is not part of the stroke. As a re­sult of this dis­tinc­tion, it is only when the player be­gins the down­swing that the club can le­git­i­mately touch the sand or the ground.

The same prin­ci­ple ap­plies to wa­ter in a wa­ter haz­ard. When at­tempt­ing to play a ball ly­ing in a wa­ter haz­ard, the club must not touch the wa­ter on the back­swing. Graeme Mc­Dow­ell called a penalty on him­self when he drove his ball into a shal­low wa­ter haz­ard dur­ing the Honda Clas­sic in 2010. As the ball was playable, he de­cided to give it a go and blasted it out onto the fair­way, ap­par­ently suc­cess­fully. But while he was walk­ing to his ball he alerted the ref­eree that he may have breached a Rule.

Tour of­fi­cials sub­se­quently took a good look at the tele­vi­sion re­plays of Mc­Dow­ell’s stroke from the wa­ter haz­ard and the video ev­i­dence un­for­tu­nately con­firmed that Mc­Dow­ell was right to be con­cerned. The footage con­firmed that he had in­deed touched the wa­ter with his club on his back­swing and was there­fore in breach of Rule 13-4b.

Anna Nordqvist in the bunker on the 17th hole

You can’t touch the ground or wa­ter in a haz­ard with hand or club be­fore mak­ing a stroke A stroke be­gins when you start the for­ward move­ment of the club in­tend­ing to strike at and move the ball The penalty for a breach of Rule 13-4b is two strokes in...

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