How to Rake a Bunker the Proper Way

A picture of a rake outside of a bunker, questioning where it should be
A picture depicting the age old debate of where to place the rake when you are finished raking the bunker

While playing the game of golf, you are sure to find your way into some hazards. While some hazards are meant for you to get that wretched ball out of your bag, some are meant to test your ability to stay focused and clean up after yourself. I’m talking about those sand bunkers or sand traps. The correct name is a debate for another day. For now, we’ll stick with bunkers. As I touched on in my post about golf etiquette, course maintenance is something that will benefit everyone that plays on the course. The one area of maintenance that will be helpful to both players and caddies alike is the raking of bunkers. Here is the proper way to rake a bunker.

1. Find the Right Point of Entry

Properly raking the bunker begins with entering the bunker. Once you’ve identified that your ball is in a bunker, you should look for the best point of entry. Often enough people, especially those that play on public courses will just walk right into the bunker from the nearest point. The nearest point is not always the best point. The best point to enter the bunker will be the lowest point of entry that is closest to your ball. There are some bunkers out there with high walls and mounds on their edges. Be very careful of those spots. Entering at a high point can be harmful to both you and the edge of the bunker. The Superintendent and his crew work tirelessly to make sure your golf course is in the best shape it can be in. Don’t tarnish that because you want to take the shortest route to your ball. Always look for a low point of entry to make not only the game but raking easier for you and others.


2. Have the Rake At The Ready

If you are playing a round without a caddie, you’ll be helping to keep up the pace of play if you are fully prepared to rake right after you’ve hit your shot out of the bunker. After you’ve identified the lowest point of entry, grab the nearest rake and take it with you to play your shot. If you are a caddie, on the other hand, grab the nearest rake, while your player is getting set up to hit the shot out of the bunker. Having a rake at the ready will also help keep up the pace of play. Next, we wait for the player to hit the shot out of the bunker.

3. Use the Two-Motion Technique

After the ball is clearly out of the bunker, the real work begins. That’s right, the raking. Time and time again, I’ve seen both players and "good caddies" walk out of the bunker, dragging the rake behind like a dead tail weighing them down. This technique does not properly rake the bunker and will likely leave footprints and teeth marks for the players that will have to play that hole when you have moved on. The way to properly rake the bunker is to rake in a backward motion. By backward motion I mean you walk backward and smoothen the uneven sand in front of you. There are 2 motions to make while raking the trap. The first is a pulling motion. You pull the sand, from the point where you hit the ball, toward you. Pulling will do some evening out but will still leave teeth marks which is not ideal. The second motion, in my opinion the more important one, is a pushing motion. After pulling some of the sand toward you, you’ll notice that there will be a small mound or pile of sand closest to where your pull ended. With an upward motion, push the sand from that small mound away from you. You will notice that after the second motion, the sand will appear to be smoothly even as if it was untampered with. Take a few steps backward and repeat, following your footprints back to your point of entry, which will not be your exit point.

4. Place the Rake in Its Proper Spot

Now that you’ve completed raking the bunker like a tour caddie, you can take a brief second to look at your work. Be brief though, because we must remember to keep up with the pace of play. The next thing will be replacing the rake. Where you leave the rake will differ on the course—some will say in the bunker, others prefer it out— but how you place it seems to have a universal preference. Most Superintendents will prefer if you leave the rake facing the green, with the teeth of the rake leading like an arrowhead in front of the handle.

Tying It All Together

That’s it! We are all done. You now know how to rake bunkers like touring professionals. Then next time you find your ball, or your players ball, in a bunker remember your crash course on raking sand bunkers. If you think I’ve missed a step in this process, please drop a line in the comment section. I’d love to learn how some of you are raking you bunkers out there. Happy raking and happy golfing!


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