Hazards in golf – Knowing what they are and getting around them to push your game to a whole new level


The term hazard in golf refers to an area or location in the golf course that provides the obstacle for the golfer to complete a hole. Each golf course is specifically designed to offer all types of Hazards that are used to disrupt the game, thereby ensuring that the golfer does not complete a hole too easily. These challenges are put in place to up the game for the golfer.

Types of Hazards

Water Hazards – This is the type that usually come in the form of lakes and rivers. Water Hazards are among the most dreaded upon by golfers. This is because if the ball falls into a water hazard, chances are it is quite impossible to get it out. They are usually natural obstacles that are included in the golf course also for aesthetics or to beautify the landscape. In shallow rivers, the ball might still be visible and the golfer can try to hit it out but when the ball falls into the pond, it is as good as gone.

Man-made Hazards – A man-made hazard can be in the form of a bunker. This is very common in a standard golf course where it would most likely be a depression on the ground or near the fairway. A bunker is filled with sand and for the beginner, it would be extremely difficult. However, the seasoned or more experienced golfer could use a sand wedge, which is a type of specialized iron to hit it out with ease.

Natural Hazards – This refers to the type of obstacle made up of natural vegetation. It could be a group of bushes, a family of trees or a hilly slope along the fairway. Natural Hazards differ among Golf Courses. one would find that Golf Courses like the Templer Park Country Club, which is nestled among mountains and rich forest have a lot of natural Hazards while those in the city center would not have too many of these Hazards.

What happens during hazards?

It must be noted that certain provisions are given to balls that have been played into the hazard areas although, in the competitive environment, there are very strict rules pertaining to the touching and hitting of the ball. In most cases, the player is not allowed to touch the ground with the club while the ball can never be touched or lifted unless there are certain obstructions or other objects which can dampen the player’s shot.

In 2019, the USGA and R&A changed the rules to this. The golfer is now allowed to ground his club in a hazard. That is to be called the penalty area which is intended to speed up the gameplay. They are allowed to remove or touch any impediments in the penalty areas.

Getting out of hazards

If you are O.B (out of bounds), your stroke and distance get penalized. This is where you have to drop a ball as close to the spot that you played from as possible. If you tee-off and hit the ball O.B, then you need to tee up again.  . Basically, it will be counted as your third shot on that particular hole. Meanwhile, you might have hit your ball into a bush and that becomes unplayable. There are ways and rules pertaining to getting out of hazards. In this situation, you can either:

  • Pick the ball up and hit it from 2 club-lengths of where the ball last fell.
  • Walk back as far as you like between the hit spot and the hole and then drop the ball before hitting again.
  • Hit from the original spot again.

All the 3 options will incur a one-shot penalty.

When it comes to water hazards, the situation is trickier. You will either hit the ball where it is or suffer a one-shot penalty from the following options. Note that hitting the ball where it lies can sometimes be impossible as it might be too far out on the water.

  • Hit again from the original spot (before it landed onto the water hazard)
  • Go as far back as you like between the hole and where the ball crosses the water hazard. Drop the ball and hit again.
  • In situations where you played the ball into a lateral water hazard (like the seaside), the options are similar.

You either play the ball where it is with no penalties involved but could be impossible or incur the one-shot penalty and then:

  • Hit again from the spot you started within the length of 2 golf clubs.
  • Hit again at a point where the ball last crossed the hazard boundary. You can do this no nearer to the hole and within a length of 2 golf clubs.
  • Hit again as near to the spot as possible but within the same distance leading to the hole.

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