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What is Golf Rule 197? How Bunker Play has Changed With This New Rule

beautiful golf course with bunkers

Bunkers can be a real pain, even for the best of us. 

Golfers of all levels find themselves in these nasty traps from time to time. Let’s be real though, some golfers have it worse than others. While experienced players land a ball in the sand on occasion, some golfers play from the rough dirt all day. They might as well have worn hiking boots and called it camping. 

There are a few techniques you can learn to improve your bunker play, like developing a special chop shot to launch the ball upward with the sand. But sometimes, a rough bunker is just too much to handle. We want to help you take advantage of this amazing new golf rule that can save your score and your self esteem if you’re someone who deals with bunkers more often than you’d like.

Rule 197 is a Last Resort. Learn to Play the Bunkers

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What is Golf Rule 197?

Golf Rules

There are 3 updates that collectively make up Golf Rule 197. They are listed below:

1.Back-on-the-line relief in the bunker

The player may draw an imaginary line between their ball and the hole and go back on that line to drop anywhere in the bunker for a one-stroke penalty. 

In plain English, this means you can move the ball backwards a little to be out of the bunker, as long as you stay on the imaginary line that points from your ball to the hole.

2. Lateral relief in the bunker

The player may take lateral relief in the bunker within one club length of their ball for a one-stroke penalty.

In other words, for a one-stroke penalty, you can move your ball a few feet to either side.

3. Back-on-the-line relief outside the bunker

There are two kinds of relief in a bunker scenario. Stroke and distance relief, and back on the line relief. 

If a player opts for stroke and distance relief, they can play from where the previous shot was made for a 2 stroke penalty. In this scenario it’s ok to use another ball if you accidentally lost it. 

This kind of relief is useful in scenarios where you fare better hitting from the previous position than the bunker area. If a shot from in or outside the bunker presents a more favorable attack angle, you should opt for back of the line relief described below. 

The back on the line rule in the bunkers provides a huge advantage to players who get stuck in really sticky situations, but have decent exit options to the front, back, left, or right of the bunker. In these cases, the player may draw an imaginary line between their ball and the hole and go back on that line to drop anywhere outside the bunker for a two-stroke penalty.

Basically, you can drop your ball outside the bunker for a sand-free shot. This can help give you a fighting chance to make par.

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Remember: Rule 197 gives you an extra chance at making par, so don’t hesitate to employ it.

Why Does This Matter?

If you find yourself in a sticky bunker situation, you may want to use Golf Rule 197. You’ll save yourself a lot of strokes (and curse words) if you set up at a new spot and take the penalty. 

Additional rule updates also allow you to move stones that are in the way of your bunker shot if you’re playing out of the bunker. 

Bottom Line

Knowing Golf technique inside and out is the best thing you can do to elevate your game. When you’re in a sticky situation, knowing a few of the rules can give an advantage over less educated competitors. Take your time to learn your stuff! It’ll pay off, we promise!

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