Water in the Bunker! Really?

The rules of golf are sometimes strange and difficult to understand. They seem written by someone who takes pleasure in trying to stump the average golfer with language and interpretations that just do not make any sense. Last year while competing at the Ontario Military Regional Golf Tournament, one particular rule actually changed the score of many of the competitors.

Storming at Garrison Golf CourseOn day one, torrential rains soaked the Garrison Golf and Curling Club in Kingston, Ontario, Canada, for four hours making it almost unplayable. After a further delay of two hours, the officials decided we could start our competition with some local rules.

The first was lift clean and place ‘through the greens’. “Through the green’’ is the whole area of the course except: for the teeing ground and putting green of the hole being played and all hazards on the course. So basically anywhere on the course, even the woods!

The second and more important rule change was that all bunkers were out of play. If your ball landed in the bunker, the player could remove the ball and keeping the point of where the ball came to rest in line with the pin, go back as far as they wanted. After discussion with the players after the round, this was a very popular decision.

The second day was slightly different. Although the course was still extremely wet, the rules officials did not invoke any local rules and the decision was made to play the ball where it lies. This is where knowing the rules was very important!

Many of the bunkers still had water in them from the previous day. Some were still completely filled. Many of the players were dismayed with the decision to keep the bunkers in play and no less than three players had to take a one stroke penalty for an unplayable lie within the bunker.

Water In the Bunker

Water in the Bunker! Now What?

But wait you say! If the ball is in the bunker underwater, would that not be considered casual water? The answer is yes! It is considered casual water and in this case falls under rule 25-1 Abnormal Ground Conditions. Under the relief part of this rule, the interpretation is:

(ii)  In a Bunker: If the ball is in a bunker, the player must lift the ball and drop it either:

(a) Without penalty, in accordance with Clause (i) above, except that the nearest point of relief must be in the bunker and the ball must be dropped in the bunker or, if complete relief is impossible, as near as possible to the spot where the ball lay, but not nearer the hole, on a part of the course in the bunker that affords maximum available relief from the condition; or
(b)  Under penalty of one stroke, outside the bunker keeping the point where the ball lay directly between the hole and the spot on which the ball is dropped, with no limit to how far behind the bunker the ball may be dropped.

I had to use this rule once during the competition and fortunately I was able to drop the ball in the bunker without a penalty stroke. Many of the players complained about the different rules they had to use during the first two days of the tournament and the most popular was rule 25-1. In the clubhouse after each round, I was amused by the many discussions starting with the question, “What about….”

Know the rules in golf is very important. They are meant to even the playing field, but only if you understand what they mean. As a player with over 35 years experience, I reread the rules at the beginning of every season. I helps remind me of the subtle nuances of golf. I also enjoy talking about the rules and hearing the different interpretation from other players, it only makes me smarter about the game I love to play.

I am a grateful golfer! See you on the links!


3 thoughts on “Water in the Bunker! Really?

  1. Jim, this post reminds me of how complicated the rules can get and how sometimes folks can get emotional if they feel like they’ve been wronged by a rule they don’t understand during a competition. Many years ago when I worked as an assistant, my boss, the head professional, always told us if someone came into the shop asking for a ruling, never give one on the spot. We were supposed to pull out The Rules of Golf and quote from the book, such as, “Mr Smith, rule blah blah blah states a violation is a two-stroke penalty.” You deflect the decision on the rules and not yourself 🙂 BTW, have you ever read a copy of the Golf Decisions? OMG, it reads like the Encyclopedia Britannica! I’m very grateful that there is no instant replay in televised golf and that players essentially police themselves with a very high level of honesty and integrity. Keeps the game moving because it can get complicated! Great post; thanks!



    • Brian, Thanks for the great comment. I agree that the rules can be frustrating for most….including me sometimes. I have not read a copy of golf decisions, but will give it a look. The honest and integrity aspect is extremely important and one of the reasons I love this game.
      Cheers, Jim


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