Q Rule 13-4 - Ball in Hazard; Prohibited Actions, in part, prohibits us from "testing the condition of the hazard" or any similar hazard while your ball is in one. What does that mean? - Ron (Creedmoor, N.C.)
ARon, I can see how this may be a little vague. Decision 13-4/0.5 clarifies the phrase:
"It covers all actions by which the player could gain more information about the hazard than could be gained from taking his stance for the stroke to be made, bearing in mind that a certain amount of digging in with the feet in the sand or soil is permitted when taking the stance for a stroke.
Examples of actions that would not constitute testing the condition of the hazard include the following:
digging in with the feet for a stance, including for a practice swing, anywhere in the hazard or in a similar hazard;
placing an object, such as clubs or a rake, in the hazard;
leaning on an object (other than a club) such as a rake while it is touching the ground in the hazard or water in a water hazard;
touching the hazard with an object (other than a club) such as a towel (touching with a club would be a breach of Rule 13-4b);
or marking the position of the ball with a tee or otherwise when proceeding under a Rule.
Examples of actions that would constitute testing the condition of the hazard in breach of Rule 13-4a include the following:
digging in with the feet in excess of what would be done for a stance for a stroke or a practice swing;
filling in footprints from a previous stance (e.g., when changing stance to make a different type of stroke);
intentionally sticking an object, such as a rake, into sand or soil in the hazard or water in a water hazard (but see Rule 12-1);
smoothing a bunker with a rake, a club or otherwise (but see Exception 2 to Rule 13-4);
kicking the ground in the hazard or water in a water hazard;
or touching the sand with a club when making a practice swing in the hazard or in a similar hazard (but see Exception 3 to Rule 13-4)."
I hope this helps. Good luck steering clear of hazards in the future.