Unlike other areas of the game, practice shots in bunkers are prohibited.
A golfer cannot touch the sand with their club until the point of impact during the stroke.
This is because a bunker is classified as a hazard, just like yellow and red staked water hazards. Also, apart from lifting movable objects from the bunker, golfers cannot test the sand with their hands.
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.
The only exceptions to this rule are if a player touches the sand as a result of or to prevent falling, places a club in the sand whilst removing an obstruction or replacing a ball or raking the bunker after use.
Touching the sand before striking the ball would incur a loss of hole in match play or two penalty strokes during medal play.
This is not always easy to achieve, especially for the first time golfer, as the normal routine for hitting shots outside a bunker or hazard usually involves grounding the club before the ball. In a bunker shot, the golfer must hover the club just above the sand to avoid incurring a penalty.
Practice swing outside the bunker
Because a golfer cannot hit the sand before taking the actual shot, they must find another way to rehearse their stroke. The easiest way to do this is to practice swinging outside the bunker. Follow this routine for practice swings out of the sand before you take your shot.
1. Assess the shot which needs to be played. Does it require a high or lower ball flight, how steep is the lip of the bunker, etc?
2. After weighing up the different obstacles associated with the shot, the golfer can set themselves up accordingly just outside the bunker.
3. Rehearsing the bunker technique, the golfer should always attempt to skim the ground, swinging through the air will not give enough feedback.
4. After visualizing the shot, the golfer can enter the bunker and execute the shot without delay.
This is a great routine to practice when out on the course. However, there is nothing stopping a golfer from practicing bunker shots when out in a friendly knock or on the practice ground.
Although bunker shots cannot be rehearsed in the bunker without breaking the Rules of Golf, they can be practised just outside to ready the golfer for the shot ahead.