What Happens If My Golf Ball Is In A Flooded Bunker?

What are your options if you find your ball in a bunker that’s filled with temporary water?

flooded bunker
What are my options?
(Image credit: Getty Images)

After a heavy downpour, bunkers on the golf course can sometimes become partially or completely flooded. It may well be possible for play to recommence before the water in the bunkers has receded. That leaves open the possibility of your ball landing in a bunker that’s waterlogged. What do you do if that happens?

Taking relief from Partially flooded bunker

It may be possible that you can take free relief from a flooded area in a bunker. This is covered in the Rules under Rule 16.1c covering interference from an abnormal course condition on the course – in this case the abnormal course condition would be water. If your ball has come to rest in a flooded section of bunker but there is an area of un-flooded bunker not nearer the hole, you can take free relief. The nearest point of complete relief and the relief area must be in the bunker and the ball must be dropped in the bunker.

If there is no nearest point of complete relief in the bunker, you may still take relief by using the point of “maximum available relief” in the bunker as a reference point – where the water will least interfere with a stroke (no nearer the hole.) The point of maximum available relief may be where the ball is in shallower water than where you will stand (affecting the stance more than the lie and swing), or where the ball is in deeper water than where you will stand (affecting the lie and swing more than the stance).

Totally flooded bunker

flooded bunker

Does anybody have a dinghy?

(Image credit: Getty Images)

When a bunker is completely flooded with no chance of relief or maximum available relief, you’ll be forced to take a penalty drop outside of the bunker. You may drop the original ball, or another ball if you can’t get to the original one in the water, in a relief area based on a reference line going straight back from the hole through the spot of the original ball. You will drop under penalty of one stroke – it might seem harsh, but you were in a bunker!

Local Rule

It’s possible for a club committee to make a local rule on a bunker filled with temporary water – Under 8F-16, the Rules state – If a bunker is flooded, free relief under Rule 16.1c may not be sufficient to allow fair play. A committee can choose to treat that bunker as ground under repair in the general area from which free relief is allowed outside the bunker.

But it’s not a full get out of jail free card for flooded bunkers – the Rules continue to say that the committee should only use the local rule on a case-by-case basis and cannot make a Local Rule that all flooded bunkers are ground under repair.

Fergus Bisset
Contributing Editor

Fergus is Golf Monthly's resident expert on the history of the game and has written extensively on that subject. He is a golf obsessive and 1-handicapper. Growing up in the North East of Scotland, golf runs through his veins and his passion for the sport was bolstered during his time at St Andrews university studying history. He went on to earn a post graduate diploma from the London School of Journalism. Fergus has worked for Golf Monthly since 2004 and has written two books on the game; "Great Golf Debates" together with Jezz Ellwood of Golf Monthly and the history section of "The Ultimate Golf Book" together with Neil Tappin , also of Golf Monthly. 

Fergus once shanked a ball from just over Granny Clark's Wynd on the 18th of the Old Course that struck the St Andrews Golf Club and rebounded into the Valley of Sin, from where he saved par. Who says there's no golfing god?