What is the golf rule if my ball lands in a puddle in a bunker?

Alistair Dunsmuir
By Alistair Dunsmuir February 2, 2018 09:47 Updated

Shona McRae Assistant Director – Rules, The R&A, explains what a golfer should do if their ball lands in a pool of water in a bunker

During the winter months, rain and melting snow not only stop us from playing golf but pose issues when we get back out playing. With the water table higher during winter months, it does not take much to find pools of water on the fairways or to find bunkers partially or completely flooded with water.

Casual water is any temporary accumulation of water (that is not in a water hazard) and is visible before or after the player takes his or her stance. You cannot press down with your foot to ‘create’ the casual water, but if it’s clearly there as you take your stance normally, then you are entitled to free relief from the water under Rule 25-1b.

In taking free relief, you must drop your ball within one club-length of, and not nearer the hole than the nearest point of relief that gives you complete relief from the water. If the casual water is in a bunker, then the nearest point of relief must also be in the bunker and the ball must be dropped in the bunker.

Bunkers tend to be more problematic because the water accumulates in the middle of the bunker, just where the player would like to drop the ball most. In finding the nearest point of relief in the bunker, the player is often faced with dropping the ball on the slope of the side or back of the bunker, leaving them with a difficult stance or little or no backswing for the stroke.

Worse still are very small bunkers where there is nowhere in the bunker that affords complete relief from the water. If this is the case, the player may drop the ball as near as possible to where the ball lies, no nearer the hole in the bunker, that affords the maximum available relief. This might be such that the ball will be in shallower water than the player’s feet or vice versa.

The alternative to getting wet feet is to take relief under penalty of one stroke outside the bunker – keeping the point where the ball lies directly in line with the hole, with no limit as to how far behind the bunker the ball may be dropped.

This may seem unfair to incur a penalty to drop out of the bunker, but it must be remembered that bunkers are hazards and are meant to be a challenge to the player. The penalty stroke ‘buys’ you a way out rather than playing a risky shot in the wet sand.

Of course, if the bunker is completely flooded, the committee can declare it all to be ground under repair, allowing free relief from the entire bunker. Decision 33-8/27 provides the recommended wording for this, sometimes, essential ‘local rule’.

Shona McRae

To find out more about the Rules of Golf, visit www.randa.org/Rules


Alistair Dunsmuir
By Alistair Dunsmuir February 2, 2018 09:47 Updated
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1 Comment

  1. Stuart February 2, 13:07

    The ball has to dropped/or placed within the bunker or else it is a penalty.

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