There are three types of water that a golfer will encounter on the course:
Water hazards, lateral water hazards, and casual water. The following discourse will help
you understand what to do when confronted by any of these situations. Keep in mind that in
all of these cases, when you drop a ball, it cannot
come to rest nearer to the hole
than where it originally lay.
Every week, many a golfer hears that fateful splash. These areas of trouble are the lakes, ditches,
and other areas marked off by yellow stakes
and lines (note that a water hazard does not have to contain water, only be defined by the
stakes and lines on its border).
Once a ball comes to rest in or touching the hazard, as
a player, you have several options available to you:
Lateral Water Hazards
- After taking a penalty stroke, you may play the ball from as close as possible to where
your original ball was hit.
- After taking a penalty stroke, you may drop a new ball behind the hazard. You can go as
far back as you want, but you MUST maintain a straight line between three points: the
hole, where your ball last crossed the margin of the hazard, and you.
- You may be daring and play the ball from where it lies within the hazard. Few things
will feel as good as taking off your shoes and socks, stepping into the water, and hitting
that ball onto the green. Note that if you choose this option, remember that you are not
allowed to 'ground your club' (rest the club on the ground when you address the
Why do some water hazards have yellow stakes
and others have red stakes? For some water hazards, it is not practical to follow option B above (think of a hole alongside an ocean - there is no way to keep a
line between the point of entry and the hole and go behind the hazard). These are called lateral water hazards, are
marked by red stakes or lines, and give you an additional option to those offered by a regular water hazard:
- After taking a penalty stroke, you can drop a new ball outside the hazard within two
club lengths from where your ball crossed into the hazard - or if the hazard is
narrow, from a point on the opposite the same distance from the hole.
As El Nino will attest, sometimes it rains
a lot. So much, in fact, that the course drainage is unable to handle all of the water. The
course becomes soaked and flooded. Casual water is that temporary accumulation of water
(not in a water hazard) visible either before or after you take your stance.
If you are not sure if there is casual water, simply take your normal stance and
address the ball. If water begins to surface around your shoes, then that area contains
You can take one of three types of relief from casual water: anywhere on the course
besides a hazard, the tee, or the green, you can move the ball one club length from the
nearest unaffected area, but no closer to the hole (and not into a hazard or onto the
green). On the green, if casual water also interferes with your putting line, you can place
the ball where the water no longer interferes (once again not closer to the hole or in a
hazard). Finally in a hazard, but not a water hazard, you can drop the ball within the
hazard closest to where the ball lay before but where the water no longer interferes. What
if the hazard is full of water? You have the option of removing the ball from the hazard,
but it will cost you a penalty stroke. Unfortunately those are the rules. If you do choose this
option, you must also keep a straight line between the hole, where your ball lay, and you.
Finally, ice and snow can be considered casual water, but not dew or frost. Those are the
basics of water on the course. Happy swimming!
For More Information
For further details on water hazards, take a look at
Rules 25 & 26
in the Official Rules of Golf. The above article is meant to
help clarify some of the basics above the rules of golf. If the above comes into conflict
with local rules or the USGA, the latter two should always be taken as correct.