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flooded bunker rules

Can a golf club make all flooded bunkers ground under repair?

The rain has flooded some of the traps on your course. Can your committee just declare that every one of them is out of play? Our Rules of Golf expert delves into the Local Rules

 

It’s a hard job being a committee member – especially if your role involves golf course set up. Members love ‘moaning’ about pin positions, whether the tee boxes are wide enough, and don’t even get them started on mats.

But when the rain starts pouring, and the bunkers start filling up with water, it presents another level of problem.

You all know you can take relief from temporary water in a trap as an abnormal course condition under Rule 16.1c but when they really flood the Rules of Golf might limit you to maximum available relief.

Worse still, you could have nowhere at all to go, and have to take relief outside of the bunker for a penalty stroke. Does that seem fair? It’s not your fault the rain has not stopped pouring.

Clubs can turn to a Local Rule – Mode Local Rule F-16 for anyone who wants to take a look – which allows your competition organisers to treat certain bunkers that are filled with temporary water as ground under repair in the general area. That allows players to take free relief outside of the bunker.

Can your committee bring in a blanket order, though? Do they have to look at every bunker that might have a bit of water on it? Or can they just use this Local Rule to decide all bunkers containing water are out of play and save a bit of time? Let’s dive into our flooded hazard and take a look…

flooded bunker

What’s the answer to this flooded bunker rule?

“The committee should only use this Local Rule for specifically identified bunkers and is not authorised to make a Local Rule providing generally that all bunkers filled with water are ground under repair,” says the guidance in the Official Guide to the Rules of Golf outlining when you can utilise it.

Why? It is explained that an individual bunker might change from being “completely flooded to partially flooded during the round” and that it would be “inappropriate” for some players to get free relief from such a bunker when others have to “treat it as a bunker as it is not completely flooded at the time their ball is in it”.

The draft text provided for the Local Rule tells committees to insert the location of the bunker, or bunkers, that are going to be treated as ground under repair for the purpose of that round.

And it states: “All other bunkers on the course, whether they contain temporary water or not, are still bunkers for all purposes under the Rules.”

So as much as it’s a pain the backside to assess individual conditions, it’s what the rules say you must do.

Got a question for our expert?

Despite the changes to the Rules of Golf in 2019 and 2023, there are still some that leave us scratching our heads. I’ll try to help by featuring the best of your queries in this column.

What do you think about this flooded bunker rule and bunker rules in general? Let me know by leaving a comment on X.

Steve Carroll

Steve Carroll

A journalist for 25 years, Steve has been immersed in club golf for almost as long. A former club captain, he has passed the Level 3 Rules of Golf exam with distinction having attended the R&A's prestigious Tournament Administrators and Referees Seminar.

Steve has officiated at a host of high-profile tournaments, including Open Regional Qualifying, PGA Fourball Championship, English Men's Senior Amateur, and the North of England Amateur Championship. In 2023, he made his international debut as part of the team that refereed England vs Switzerland U16 girls.

A part of NCG's Top 100s panel, Steve has a particular love of links golf and is frantically trying to restore his single-figure handicap. He currently floats at around 11.

Steve plays at Close House, in Newcastle, and York GC, where he is a member of the club's matches and competitions committee and referees the annual 36-hole scratch York Rose Bowl.

Having studied history at Newcastle University, he became a journalist having passed his NTCJ exams at Darlington College of Technology.

What's in Steve's bag: TaylorMade Stealth 2 driver, 3-wood, and hybrids; TaylorMade Stealth 2 irons; TaylorMade Hi-Toe, Ping ChipR, Sik Putter.

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