In 2019, bunkers will be given their very own Rule number and specific relief Rules. Under Rule 12, players will be allowed to touch or move loose impediments in a bunker and will be generally allowed to touch the sand with a hand or club. However limitations will remain, including prohibiting testing the condition of the sand or touching the sand whilst preparing for the stroke.
In addition to this Rule change, when a player decides to treat their ball as unplayable within a bunker, there will now be an extra relief option: taking relief outside the bunker using the back-on-the-line procedure, for a total of two penalty strokes.
The reason for this change is that the challenge of playing from a bunker is the need to play out of the sand, not to play with leaves, stones or other loose impediments in the bunker.
The current approach has created confusion by stating a total prohibition on touching the sand with a hand or club and then recognising many exceptions.
The revised Rule will simplify this by prohibiting only those acts where there is a purpose for doing so under the Rules.