Losing Your Golf Ball In Casual Water

Here is a golf rules question I received earlier in the week relating to casual water.


“A case last week, not sure of the ruling.

There was a quantity of water – which would be classed as casual – to one side of our 12th. A misplaced shot appeared to have gone into the water but could not be seen. The water was in a hollow and a few inches deep in the middle.

What rule governs such a situation and would the other three players have to agree that the water is where the ball finished up before further action is taken.

Best wishes



“The definition of Abnormal Ground Condition includes casual water.

Therefore Rule 25-1c is relevant: Ball in Abnormal Ground Condition Not Found. The Rule states; “It is a question of fact whether a ball that has not been found after having been struck toward an abnormal ground condition is in such a condition. In order to apply this Rule, it must be known or virtually certain that the ball is in the abnormal ground condition. In the absence of such knowledge or certainty, the player must proceed under Rule 27-1 (Lost Ball).

If it is known or virtually certain that a ball that has not been found is in an abnormal ground condition, the player may take relief under this Rule. If he elects to do so, the spot where the ball last crossed the outermost limits of the abnormal ground condition must be determined and, for the purpose of applying this Rule, the ball is deemed to lie at this spot and the player must proceed as follows:

(i) Through the Green: If the ball last crossed the outermost limits of the abnormal ground condition at a spot through the green, the player may substitute another ball, without penalty, and take relief as prescribed in Rule 25-1b(i)…..” (i.e. within one club length of the nearest point of relief, not nearer the hole, of the point where the ball last crossed the margin of the casual water.

In your circumstances if the fellow competitors cannot agree among themselves that it was “known or virtually certain” that the ball is lost in casual water the player should play out the hole with two balls and report the facts to the Committee after completing his round (Rule 3-3).”

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6 Responses to “Losing Your Golf Ball In Casual Water”

  1. Barry Rhodes says:


    I am not sure that I understand your question. If there is any visible water on the surface of the course outside of a water hazard the player may take relief from it under Rule 25-1b. Sometimes casual water may not be visible on the surface of the ground when you walk up to your ball. However, relief is still available if the weight of the player, when taking their stance, is sufficient for water to appear around the sole of their shoe.

    Barry Rhodes

  2. Roger Wood says:

    Casual water.

    The rules states, ““Casual water’’ is any temporary accumulation of water on the course that is not in a water hazard and is visible before or after the player takes his stance”.

    Does this mean that when the player actually takes his shot, he must be aware of the presence of the casual water, (visible) or does, “after the player takes his stance” include walking up the fairway and discovering his ball is in casual water? I ask this question, bearing in mind relief is allowed from casual water in the rough.

  3. Chris Maguire says:

    Our 9th hole is guarded by a water hazard which is defined by yellow stakes as normal each side. One area within this hazard is built up and acts as a bridge to cross to 9th green. Whilst competing in a matchplay compettition my opponents ball landed on this area. While preparing to take his shot my opponent grounded his club. I said he had infringed the rules and lost the hole. He did not agree saying that there was not a continuous line across the area the same as a proper bridge across the hazard a little way further up the hazard.

    Who’s right?

    Barry’s Reply:


    From the information that you provide I would say that you were right. Part of the Definition of a water hazard says, “When the margin of a water hazard is defined by stakes, the stakes are inside the water hazard, and the margin of the hazard is defined by the nearest outside points of the stakes at ground level. When both stakes and lines are used to indicate a water hazard, the stakes identify the hazard and the lines define the hazard margin.”

    Now, from what you say the lines ended at the sides of the natural bridge, presumably either because they had worn away or through poor marking. If it was intended that the bridge was not in the water hazard the lines should have turned at right angles and across the bridge on either side (I would have thought that this is most unusual). In the absence of lines in either direction the stakes define the margin and they obviously included the natural bridge area.
    Grounding the club on the ground in a water hazard would indeed incur the loss of hole penalty in match play.

    Ironically, had the player grounded his club on the “proper bridge”, which I presume was artificial and therefore an immovable obstruction, would not have incurred a penalty, despite the fact that it is within the margins of the water hazard, Decision 13-4/30.

    Kind Regards,

    Barry Rhodes

  4. Bryan Millington says:

    I have a similar question to ask, Andy. On my home course, there is a dry ditch crossing the fairway, 50 yds. short of the green. My ball rolled inti it, and when getting there, found there was 3/5 inches of water in one part of it, the rest being dry, as it normally is. Because it naormally in a dry state, do I get a free lift and drop, or not. My partner insisted that I had to either play it out of the water, or take a penalty stroke for a drop. Who is correct. Thank you, Bryan

    Barry’s Reply:


    You certainly can take relief in these circumstances providing, either your ball is lying in the water or part of your stance would be in the water. The definition of casual water includes this statement, “‘Casual water’ is any temporary accumulation of water on the course that is not in a water hazard and is visible before or after the player takes his stance.” The definition of Abnormal Ground Condition includes casual water. Rule 25-1a, which deals with interference by Abnormal Ground Conditions starts, “Interference by an abnormal ground condition occurs when a ball lies in or touches the condition or when the condition interferes with the player’s stance or the area of his intended swing.”

    Of course, if the casual water in the ‘dry’ ditch does not interfere with your ball or your stance then you must play the ball as it lies, or deem it unplayable and take the penalty.



  5. steve ma says:

    Hello Andy

    Last year, I purchase an ebook, and you send me an email which links to pdf file to four great move. However, my son accidently erase your emailand I can go back to it. Please send me your link email.

    Thank you

    Steve Ma, California

    Andy’s Reply:

    Hi Steve,

    I have sent the link to you via email.



  6. Terry says:

    Your explanation of ‘ball lost in casual water’ is quite clear but what if that casual water is a bunker which is completely covered in water; i.e. there is nowhere in the bunker where the ball can be dropped.

    Barry’s Reply:


    The Rule relating to a ball lying in casual water in a bunker is Rule 25-1b(ii); “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.”

    This second point causes confusion for a lot of golfers who wrongly presume that when their ball lies in a bunker they may take relief, under penalty of one stroke, by dropping their ball outside of a bunker, if they don’t fancy their next stroke. Whereas, it is only when their ball lies in an abnormal ground condition (such as casual
    water) in a bunker that the relief applies.

    There is a good visual explanation of this Rule in the last third of this clip; http://www.usga.org/playing/rules/animations/abnormal_h.html.



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