Saturday, July 12, 2014

Sun-Ju Ahn and Rule 13-3

            On the 18th hole of her third round in the Ricoh Women’s British Open at Royal Birkdale, Sun-Ju Ahn had a very awkward lie in the greenside bunker.  In order to gain better footing, she slid sand down the side of the bunker to help gain a foothold on the side-slope of the bunker.
            Under Rule 13-3 a player is entitled to take her stance firmly, but must not build a stance.  For those of us who have attended one or numerous Rules seminars, Ahn’s action is a classic example of a breach of Rule 13-3.  A player is entitled to dig into the sand as described in Decision 13-4/0.5, “a certain amount of digging in with the feet in the sand or soil is permitted when taking a stance for a stroke.”  However, knocking down sand from the side of a bunker to help gain a more level stance is not covered as “digging in” but rather is considered a breach of Rule 13-3 and is covered in Decision 13-3/3:

Q. A player knocks down the side of a bunker with his foot in an effort to get his feet on the same level.  Is this permissible?
A. No. Such an action constitutes building a stance in breach of Rule 13-3.

When trying to decipher between “digging in” and “building” the clearest separation is whether a player has to lift their feet again to settle into the stance.  When you dig in your feet, you swish them around in the sand, but in order to build a stance you must lift your foot out of its initial spot and push more sand around from another location (side slope or otherwise).  This is not a firm and fast Rule, because there are certainly exceptions, but if you see someone on the wrong side of the line it is important to take a second look, which is exactly what the R & A did in this situation.

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