What are golf hazards and how can you avoid them, or play through them? Hazards come in all shapes and sizes, as well as having their own terms — water hazard or lateral hazard. Golf, with all these terms floating around, can be confusing until you figure out what they all mean. Let me shed some light on what you can do, and hopefully improve your game as well!

Water Hazards in Golf

All golf courses have beautiful landscapes surrounding them. Most, if not all, have water hazards. If you’re very new to golf, you are probably thinking; “what is a water hazard?” According to ThoughtCo., a water hazard is any body of water, from the Ocean to a drainage ditch, located on the golf course.

Some courses have hazards "around" the green, such as water or sand. We have hazards "on" the green!! Gotta love SC golf…

Posted by Realtor Randy Gallagher on Wednesday, September 6, 2017

Image: Realtor Randy Gallagher

What Now? My Ball is in the Water

Your ball is officially in the water or near it, what happens now? Usually, nothing good happens after you’ve hit your ball into a hazard. However, there is something you can do. Relief is just ahead! When you find yourself in a water hazard, Rule 26 comes in handy. Rule 26-1 states:

If a ball is found in a water hazard or if it is known or virtually certain that a ball that has not been found is in the water hazard (whether the ball lies in water or not), the player may under penalty of one stroke:

a. Proceed under the stroke and distance provision of Rule 27-1 by playing a ball as nearly as possible at the spot from which the original ball was last played (see Rule 20-5); or

b. Drop a ball behind the water hazard, keeping the point at which the original ball last crossed the margin of the water hazard directly between the hole and the spot on which the ball is dropped, with no limit to how far behind the water hazard the ball may be dropped; or

c. As additional options available only if the ball last crossed the margin of a lateral water hazard, drop a ball outside the water hazard within two club-lengths of and not nearer the hole than (i) the point where the original ball last crossed the margin of the water hazard or (ii) a point on the opposite margin of the water hazard equidistant from the hole.

When proceeding under this Rule, the player may lift and clean his ball or substitute a ball.

To learn more, watch this video on rule 26.1, and relief for a ball in water hazards:

Over the River … Where’s the Ball?

Did you know that you don’t need water for there to be a hazard on the course? ThoughtCo. explains: “If a seasonal creek, for example, is defined as a water hazard by the committee, but your ball finds it when the creek is dry, the ball must be played under all the rules for water hazards.”

Now your ball has landed in one of two spots. These hazards are marked by a yellow stake or a red stake. Golf water hazards are no different. It is just a matter of figuring out if your ball has landed behind the yellow line or red line.

Found it … Lateral Golf Hazard

Lateral Hazard #17

Posted by Eastman Golf Links on Thursday, January 12, 2012

Image: Eastman Golf Links

A lateral hazard is, basically, a water hazard which you’re not able to drop your ball behind, as stated in Rule 21-1b. Now what? You have two options to play out this stroke. If your ball landed behind the yellow stake. You can take a one-stroke penalty and drop the ball. You’re able to drop the ball behind the hazard line, and as far back as you want. Or, you can play again, called stroke and distance. If you had just teed off, you’re able to place your ball anywhere in the teeing area.

If you found yourself behind the red line, there is a different set of options.

Out of the Woods … A Penalty

When playing a hazard behind the red line there are four ways you’re able to play the ball:

  1. You can take the one-stroke penalty, playing as a stroke and distance.You can also drop the ball anywhere but you’re NOT allowed to play closer to the hole.
  2. Another way to play through the hazard is to drop the ball behind the lateral hazard line, lining it up straight to the hole.
  3. You could drop the ball two club lengths from this hazard, but it cannot be closer to the hole.
  4. Finally, you can find a spot the same distance from the hole. Measure two club lengths that are not nearer the hole.

You are also allowed to play this hazard without a penalty of one stroke. If it is in the water, yet close to land, you can play. Don’t let your club touch the hazard (water) before making the stroke. If it looks good, take your shot! If you’re still not sure, watch this Golf Hazard Rules: How to Navigate a Lateral Water Hazard golf video:

Golf hazards are sometimes unavoidable, water hazards being one of them. Knowing the rules on how to play through them, around them or over them is important. You’re going to have a one-stroke penalty, but figuring out how to play the hazard properly improves your game. Learning all the rules helps to improve your golf style as well. For a new player, like myself, these terms and conditions are confusing. However, it’s all worth it when you watch your best drive ever land where you intended it to go. Or, when you get yourself out of a hazard, of course.

Bunkers: Another Kind of Hazard

As if the two types of water hazards aren’t bad enough, you’ll also come across bunkers. These are usually depressions in the ground full of sand.

Bunkers, also known as “sand traps,” come in three flavors:

  • Cross bunker: You can’t avoid these, they’re lying in wait between you and the golf hole.
  • Pot bunker: These are smaller but deeper, and it’s hard to hit the ball out.
  • Church pews bunker: This wash of sand ribbed with a series of grassy ridges is the stuff golfers’ nightmares are made of.

When you hit your ball into one of these, don’t give up hope. This video shows you how to swing and hit your golf ball out of the bunker every time.

Featured image CC by CC A-SA 4.0, by Bernard Gagnon, via Wikimedia Commons

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