If you have played golf more than once, you have probably been in a sand bunker or sand trap. Let’s say you do that, and when to get to your ball you notice that a crumpled up potato chip bag is in the bunker right behind your ball. Furthermore, a tree branch has broken off the tree above and it just in front of your ball. Quiz time: You can move one and not the other.
Answer: You can remove the potato chip bag. You can’t move the tree branch. Here’s why. The spirit of this rule is that a sand bunker may have objects in it that are naturally occurring and from that area. Rocks, pebbles, leaves, branches, pine cones, deer crap, turkey feathers, any of those things are likely candidates to be in the bunker. And if they are, you can’t touch them or move them except in the process of making a swing at your ball. However, if there is something weird like a wrapper, a phone book, a dead animal, a child’s toy, a misplaced golf club, or something else like this, you can move it out of the way. Try to not move your ball when you are moving the object, but if your ball does move you need to replace it as closely as possible to where it was originally.
The next time you are in a bunker and bend down to pick up a candy wrapper, no doubt your opponent will yell that it’s a penalty. Calmly tell him there’s no penalty for removing the wrapper, take your stroke and put the ball an inch away from the cup. This will likely get a healthy steam brewing in your opponent. All the better to beat him.
USGA Rule 13-4
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