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Can You Remove Sand from the Putting Green?

When it comes to golfing, few things can be as intimidating as showing up to a golf course that has been recently sanded. Fortunately, though the altered terrain may be frustrating, you can adjust your game accordingly without breaking the rules.

Players may remove sand or loose soil from the putting green without penalty according to rule 13.1 in the R&A golfing handbook. Off of the putting green, removal of sand isn’t allowed and will incur the penalty listed in rule 8.1, which is an addition of two strokes or loss of a hole in match play.

Sanding is a necessary process for maintaining artificial grass, but it doesn’t have to interfere with your time enjoying a game on the golf course. With a quick brush-up on the most widely accepted rules, you’ll be sand-savvy in no time!

Why is Removing Sand Allowed?

Golf is all about precision and technique. This means that the slightest alteration on a golf course—even something as small and seemingly insignificant as grains of sand—can affect the roll of the ball and ultimately change the trajectory of a game.

Understandably, this annoys golf players of all skill levels; so, to level the playing field (in every sense) and to keep the sport enjoyable, certain rules were designed and remain in place.

  • Renowned for leading, organizing, and structuring golfing events, The Royal and Ancient Golf Club of St. Andrews (the R&A) upholds a widely accepted handbook of professional golfing rules.
  • Section 13 of this handbook addresses actions allowed or required on putting greens, including sand removal.
  • Rule 13.1 allows players to adjust the terrain in ways that are not allowed outside of the green, on the rough.

For instance, if another player hits a ball into a bunker and sprays sand on your ball while it is in the green, you may clear the sand off of your ball. Prior to picking it up, the rules require that you mark its original position so that it can be properly replaced.

If the course has been recently sanded for maintenance and a player’s ball is obstructed by sand in the green, the player may remove sand or loose soil without penalty, as long as the ball is returned to its original position. This allows players to clear the path of debris and continue playing a fair game on level terrain.

Under this rule, a player may also repair any damage incurred by the putting green under the condition that the green is restored (as much as possible) to its original condition. Damage can be defined as any alteration caused by an outside influence such as a shoe, vehicle, or animal.

Tampering with the original conditions of the course is not allowed, but if unreasonable obstructions are delaying the game, players may repair the area as seen fit.

The following video demonstrates why and how damage may be repaired on a putting green to keep the golf game fair and enjoyable.

How to Remove Sand from the Putting Green

Using a hand, foot, or golf club, players may remove sand from the putting green. It is important to be careful while doing this so you do not accidentally damage the golf course terrain. Gently wipe the sand away from the ball that it is obstructing.

While removing sand, it is against professionally accepted rules to create an indentation that would aid your ball in approaching the hole of the green.

Kneeling or lying down to remove sand is not recommended, as the increased concentration of weight can indent and alter the course unfairly. (source)

If possible, use your golf club to gently swipe sand away, as this will create the most natural pattern of wear on the turf. Any damage caused by crouching, kneeling, or lying on the green may be carefully repaired without penalty.

Also, according to rules that have been simplified in recent years, players are allowed to touch the line of play (source) on the putting green.

This means that, if a player feels so inclined, he or she may crouch down and use a hand to feel the surface of the green.

Physically feeling the texture of the green, especially after the course has been sanded, can help players assess their ability to hit the ball as desired and make adjustments accordingly. Still, players are not allowed to improve the line of play in any way that would be personally advantageous; such tampering remains penalized by the current rules enforced.

Why Do Golf Courses Sand the Green?

Golf courses are sanded regularly to counter the buildup of organic material, also known as thatch. Layers of dirt, insects, bird droppings, and plant material build up on the turf over time and cannot decompose on the synthetic surface. If the thatch is left unattended, it can be problematic to the overall terrain, creating uneven dry areas or spongy brown spots.

To counter extreme results of organic buildup, course owners regularly distribute a layer of sand. The sand allows moisture to drain more effectively and air to circulate more regularly, preventing fungal buildup and allowing the course to remain smooth and level.

  • If you have your own putting green at home in your backyard or another privately-owned area, consider using sand regularly to keep the turf in optimal condition.
  • Importantly, sand should be applied during periods of fair weather and should consist of small grains.
  • Inclement weather can cause drainage issues and even exacerbate the initial issue of decay.

Heavy sand, such as the larger grain variety used in construction, is designed to be sturdy and, for obvious reasons, will damage the turf. Small grains will be gentle on the turf and will settle more naturally into the layers of thatch it is intended to combat.

When it comes to golfing rules, the most important thing to keep in mind is that each rule is designed to keep the game fair and fun. Know the rules, take care of the terrain, and you are all set to have a fun game of golf that you and your friends will thoroughly enjoy!

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