Should the Rake Be Placed Inside or Outside the Bunker?

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When you're finished a , what do you do with the rake? Do you place it inside or outside the bunker? Are there rules or guidelines that govern the placement of rakes?

It's a common question among golfers because no matter where you place that rake — inside or outside the bunker — it will still be in a position to influence golf balls rolling its way.

So what's the rule? Well, there is no rule, which, of course, is what leads to the confusion. However, the governing bodies do provide some guidance on the question. In the , in , the USGA and R&A write that "There is not a perfect answer for the position of rakes and it is a matter for each Committee to decide whether it has rakes placed in or out of bunkers."

It's likely that your golf club or course has such a decision in place, so the first thing to do is to ask the for its policy on rake placement. If they have one, then simply follow that policy.

And if the course does not have a policy, or you are unable to find anyone who knows what it is? While there aren't any official rules about rake placement, there are rules of thumb and guidelines provided by the R&A and USGA in the Committee Procedures.

The USGA/R&A Guidelines on Rake Placement

"... while recognising that the positioning of rakes is at the Committee's discretion, it is recommended that rakes should be left outside bunkers in areas where they are least likely to affect the movement of the ball."

That is the ultimate conclusion of the governing bodies' guidance on rake position — leave the rakes outside the bunker, unless instructed otherwise by the golf course you are playing or by tournament organizers.

It's true that a rake placed outside a bunker might cause a golf ball to careen into the bunker. It is less likely, but possible, that a rake already in the bunker might cause a ball to careen out of the bunker.

More likely, though, when a rake inside a bunker influences the ball, is the possibility that the ball will come to rest against (or even on top of, if its teeth are pointing up) the rake.

Continuing with Committee Procedures Guidance on Rakes

"It may be argued that there is more likelihood of a ball being deflected into or kept out of a bunker if the rake is placed outside the bunker. It could also be argued that if the rake is in the bunker it is most unlikely that the ball will be deflected out of the bunker.
"However, in practice, players who leave rakes in bunkers frequently leave them at the side of the bunker which tends to stop a ball rolling into the flat part of the bunker resulting in a much more difficult shot than would otherwise have been the case. When the ball comes to rest on or against a rake in the bunker and the player must proceed under Rule 15.2, it may not be possible to replace the ball on the same spot or find a spot in the bunker which is not nearer the hole."

But what about placing the rakes in the middle of the bunker, where they won't be able to stop a ball on the bunker's sloping sides? The R&A and USGA address that scenario, too:

"If rakes are left in the middle of the bunker, the only way to position them is to throw them into the bunker and this causes indentations in the sand. Also, if a rake is in the middle of a large bunker, it is either not used or the player is obliged to rake a large area of the bunker when retrieving the rake, resulting in unnecessary delay."

The Golf Course Superintendents Association of America further recommends that rakes outside the bunker be placed laying flat on the ground (tines up) and parallel to the hole's direction of play.

The conclusion of the governing bodies' guidance on rake position is this:

"Therefore, after considering all these aspects, and while recognising that the positioning of rakes is at the Committee's discretion, it is recommended that rakes should be left outside bunkers in areas where they are least likely to affect the movement of the ball.
"However, a Committee may decide to position rakes inside bunkers to make it easier for maintenance staff to cut fairways and bunker surrounds."

So: Follow the guidelines in place at the golf course or in place for your tournament. If such guidelines are not in place, or you are unable to learn what they are, then place rakes outside bunkers, parallel to the direction of play on that hole.