Playing Golf in Wet Conditions

Wet Golf CourseWe’ve been getting a lot of rain around here recently. When that happens, even if the sun has started shining again, the course gets saturated and the game changes some. With an awareness of the issues and a few adjustments, you’ll be ready to tackle a round on a wet course.

Length Becomes a Premium

Without a doubt, when a golf course is wet, it plays longer, sometimes significantly. Just about all shots will roll less after landing, if they even roll at all.

On a wet course, club selection is critical. Depending on how much water the course is holding, it may make club selection very easy. If it’s wet enough where you’re seeing little or no roll on shots, then you simply play to the full shot distance. In other words, if you normally account for some roll after a shot lands, you’re going to want to play the shot to land where you would normally expect it to finish rolling.

Adjust Your Course Management Plan

You really need to consider the makeup of your course and how it handles water when you’re trying to come up with a course management plan for the round.

Consider my course, for instance. When it’s holding a lot of water, the fairways and rough get very saturated. So much so, that you can hear the turf squishing as you walk. On the other hand, the greens were very well made and drain well. Most times, the greens dry out much faster than the rest of the course.

This adds a wrinkle to my course management plan on wet days. I have to account for shorter shots off the tee and less distance on lay-ups. When it comes to approach shots, though, unless the rain was very recent, the greens will react much like they would on a normal day (at least until they get hard during the hottest stretches of summer).

It’s a minor point, but something worthy of consideration. You have to adjust your plan to your course and to the way it plays during wet conditions.

Tend to Your Hardware

Water and mud can have a serious effect on the quality of the shots you’re able to hit. The big thing to be aware of is the presence of mud on the ball. See below for some of the rule implications, but in general, if the Rules allow you to clean the ball, then do so. Mud stuck on the ball will affect its flight.

On the putting green, a little mud on the ball will have a more profound effect. It will tend to pull a putt off line, and with such a small target, it can mean the difference between missing a putt or making it. In Dave Pelz’s Putting Bible, he describes his experiments where he moved a ball’s center of gravity (from mud being applied to the surface). He showed that, depending on how drastic the center of gravity moves (how much mud is on the ball), a putt of 9 feet can be guided several inches off line. That is more than sufficient to miss a putt.

Another thing to consider when playing in wet conditions is that you’re keeping the grooves on your clubs clean. The grooves will tend to fill with water and mud, reducing the amount of spin that they impart on the ball. Make it a habit to clean your club’s grooves after each shot, making sure to towel off excess water. One gotcha to avoid – picking up water, mud, and grass on practice swings. Be sure that you clean off anything picked up during a practice swing before attempting the real shot.

Rules Implications

When the course is wet, there are a few rules implications to keep in mind.

One situation you’re much more likely to encounter on a wet golf course is an embedded ball. Luckily, Rule 26-2 addresses this. When a ball is embedded in its own pitch mark in any closely mown area through the green (basically anything mowed to fairway height or less, except for the tee or green), you can lift, clean, and drop the ball.

You may have noticed sometimes when watching golf on television, that they play “lift, clean, and place” when the course is wet. The Rules of Golf provide for the ability for the Committee to create a local rule to handle this situation. It is covered in Appendix I, Section 4b. Remember that in the absence of a local rule, you must play the ball as it lies.

Another provision in the Rules that you definitely want to be aware of is the allowance for relief from casual water. Casual water is temporary water on a golf course that is not within a hazard. Casual water may be visible either before or after you take your stance. Just to confuse things a little, snow and natural ice are either casual water or loose impediments, artificial ice is an obstruction, and dew and frost are ??????not considered casual water.

If you find yourself affected by casual water, refer to Rule 25-1 for the proper relief procedures. Depending on the extent of the casual water, you may prefer to play the ball as it lies. For instance, if the nearest point of relief puts you at a disadvantage, you might just choose to not take relief.

Knowing is Half the Battle

Playing golf in wet conditions holds the possibility for bad scores, but nothing is written in stone. Understand the situation and adapt. Adjust your course management plan, tend to your equipment, and let the Rules work for you and you’ll be able to overcome the little twist that the weather has thrown at you and shoot a good score.


  1. Web Mumble says:

    “Possibility for bad scores” LOL – everytime I play golf, it’s more than a possibility.

  2. Woody says:

    Thanks for the post, we were just arguing about rule 26-2 last night. Which is the same as 25-2 in the Canadian rule.

    Wet golf, club up, choke up and hit it like an gorilla.

  3. Double Eagle says:

    That’s interesting, Woody. I always thought the R&A was the governing body of golf in Canada and the set of rules used was the same as the R&A/USGA set. Why the different numbering?

  4. Maybe one more point on rulings.

    If the course has taken enough water some water hazard may begin to crest and the hazard boundary lines are now submerged in water. If the ball has not crossed the hazard line then it is ruled as casual water. If it has cossed teh hazard line then the water/lateral water hazard rules still apply.

  5. Double Eagle says:

    Great point, TP! That’s one of the little twists of the rules (though perfectly logical) that players should be aware of.

  6. Disc Golfer says:

    Thanks for this article, especially the rule clarification,

    “One situation you’re much more likely to encounter on a wet golf course is an embedded ball. Luckily, Rule 26-2 addresses this. When a ball is embedded in its own pitch mark in any closely mown area through the green (basically anything mowed to fairway height or less, except for the tee or green), you can lift, clean, and drop the ball.”

    I was playing in Vancouver, BC one time and I lost three balls in the FAIRWAY because they would just land and get stuck in the fairway. Aggravating!

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