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Casual water, water hazard are not the same
Graham Lewis - photo by Photo provided.

Golf is fun, whether playing solo or with others. Having a basic understanding of the game’s rules makes it easier to enjoy the experience and improve your skills. In this periodic column, I provide brief explanations of golf rules and answer commonly asked questions.

Question: Jan and Sue are playing in a tournament. On the 13th hole, Sue hits her ball toward a lateral water hazard. When she and Jan reach the hazard they are unable to find the ball. They both agree the ball went into the water, but Jan said Sue can get a free drop since heavy overnight rain caused the hazard to overflow its defined margin and create a large area of casual water. Is Jan correct that Sue should get a free drop?

Answer: Jan is incorrect. If the margin of the hazard is clearly marked and the ball is found in casual water outside the margin of the hazard, Sue is entitled to a free drop. However, the ball was not found and it cannot be assumed the ball was lost in the casual water and not the hazard. Therefore, Sue must proceed under the water hazard rule. This is in accordance with equity (rule 1-4).

Thanks for the question. As always, remember to have fun while playing or practicing the game of golf.


Lewis is a certified teaching professional and a member of the United States Golf Teachers Federation. E-mail him at

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