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What Is A Hazard In Golf? – Explained!

what is a hazard in golf
what is a hazard in golf

Golf is known to be a technical sport full of expressions and technical terms that you may not know the meaning of. One of those expressions often thrown out in conversation and television broadcasts is the word “Hazard”.

If you are reading this article, you may wonder: What exactly does a “Hazard” mean in golf?

In this article, we will explain to you exactly what a Hazard is in golf, along with examples to solidify your comprehension.

What Is A Hazard In Golf?

In golf, a Hazard is a section or a part of a golf hole that is hazardous to a good golf score, such as bunkers and water features. Landing your golf ball in a hazard will negatively impact your golf score, whether it be by explicit penalties, or the rough hazard terrain you need to get out of.

In the great game of golf, the term “Hazard” is a word that is extremely common to hear. Just about every golfer has heard of the term “Hazard” before, as Hazards are present on nearly every golf course.

In golf, a Hazard is some kind of obstacle on a golf hole of a golf course meant to penalize you. In other words, a golf course hazard is like a trap that will inflate your score and render your progression through a hole much more difficult.

There are many different types of hazards that you can find on a golf course, such as water features, sand bunkers, and rough terrain.

A hazard can inflate your golf score in 2 major ways:

  1. Explicit stroke penalties
  2. Difficult terrain to maneuver

In the first way, you may get explicit stroke penalties if your ball lands in certain types of hazards, especially if these are hazards in which you lose your ball.

For example, landing your golf ball in a water feature, such as a pond, will leave you without a ball, and with a stroke penalty. You will have to pull out a new ball and take a new shot, but with an extra stroke added to your score.

In the second way, although there is no explicit stroke penalty to your score, it may even be worse. For example, if you land your golf ball in the bottom of a deep sand bunker, it may actually take you more than one stroke to get your ball out of it and back onto playable turf.

You might end up waster 2 or 3 strokes just to leave the bunker, which is worse than just losing one single stroke to a water hazard.

Hazards on golf courses add an insane level of trickiness to even the blandest of golf holes, making them instantly more challenging. Hazards such as bunkers and water features drastically increase the control and precision you need over the golf ball to get a good score.

Hazards are challenge-inducing additions to any golf hole, and require golfers to use effective golf course management skills.

Types Of Golf Hazards

There are a few different types of golf hazard you can find on a golf courses. These types of golf hazard are listed down below.

Sand Bunkers

You can see a real-world example of a sand bunker Hazard, down below.

Sand Bunker

Sand bunkers are often placed very close to the putting greens, which makes even professionals beware them. Avoiding sand bunkers can easily be the difference between scoring a birdie, or a triple bogey.

It is often tricky to get your golf ball to leave a bunker, since they are dug into the ground, lower than turf level. Even if you do manage to get your golf ball out of the bunker, it will probably not go exactly to where you wanted it to go, despite you using a stroke.

Water Features

You can see a real-world example of a water feature Hazard, down below.

Water Hazard on a Golf Course

As you can see on the image above, there are no railings or walls preventing the golf ball from rolling or landing into the water. It is pretty easy to land a golf ball in the water feature hazard by accident, unless you are a good golfer.

If your golf ball lands in a water hazard, you will likely lose it (unless you want to go for a swim), and will have to replay your shot with a new ball and a one-stroke penalty.

Rough Terrain

A third type of hazard is really rough terrain (tall turf, etc.). If your ball lands on this type of hazard, it will be hard to strike it out of there with significant power and accuracy. Fortunately, you will not receive a stroke penalty for playing on rough terrain.

Out-Of-Bounds Areas

A fourth type of hazard is the out-of-bounds areas. If your ball lands on this type of hazard, you will receive a one-stroke penalty and have to replay your shot from where your ball started on your last stroke. The out-of-bounds areas of a golf hole are marked by white pickets or stakes.

Origin Of The Term “Hazard”

The term Hazard’s origin is vocabulary based. In fact, in the English language, a hazard is a “danger or risk”. Applied to golf, a hazard is simply a “danger or risk” of entering difficult terrain that will result in a higher golf score.

Nowadays, it is common to hear the term hazard replaced by terms like penalty areas and bunkers, especially in official rulebooks detailing the Rules of Golf.

If you would like to lower your golf score and improve your chances avoiding hazards, you can read our guide: How To Improve Your Golf Score? – 9 Pro Tips.


There you go! After reading this article, you have learned exactly what the term Hazard means in golf. You also got to see real-world examples to further improve your understanding of the meaning of a Hazard.

Do you have any other words you wish to know more about? What is your least favorite hazard to encounter in golf? Let us know in the comments down below!

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