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The 15 worst breaks you can get on a golf course, ranked

January 31, 2023


Part of golf’s intrigue is its unpredictability. On any given day, you might have the round of your life thanks to a few friendly kicks. On the flip side, our sport dishes out cruel punishments that can make us question if we’re playing a fair game.

Bad luck comes in many forms. Terrible bounces and unfortunate lies affect our scores and test our patience. Then there are the subtle pitfalls that can really derail a round of golf without directly ruining your score.

Here are the 15 worst breaks you can get on a golf course. Though we hope you haven’t experienced all of them, if you play enough golf, you’ll understand the pain of each of these unfortunate events.

15. Realizing it’s cart-path only … after you’ve bought a cart

Let’s be honest, it’s better to walk the entire round than manage the hassle of sticking to cart-path only. Now, you’re stuck with the cart and out $30. Tough break.

14. Stuck behind the slowest group on the course

Playing through? They’ve never heard of it, or worse, they don’t care. You’ve caught a bad break, and there’s nothing your hand-on-hip, passive-aggressive staredown can do about it.

13. No water at any fill-up station

You forgot to fill your bottle before heading out, but not to worry, there are coolers out there. Do they have anything in them? Nope. Cue the headache and jitters.

12. Ball resting against the collar off the green

A couple inches further left, and you’d have a simple putt from the fringe. Instead, you’re contemplating a 3-wood, hybrid, an intentionally bladed wedge or a stabbed putting stroke.

11. Rangefinder battery running out

The good news is, while you’re marching off the distance to the nearest sprinkler head for the rest of the day, you’ll have plenty of time to remember what kind of battery it takes.

10. Aerated greens


Courtesy of the USGA

You know it’s that time of year, so you called ahead to ask if the course had punched their greens. Apparently you didn’t get the whole story as you step onto the first green and realize you’ll be playing “auto two-putt” all day.

9. Embedded in a bunker

You were one yard from carrying the tall lip and having a look at birdie. Now, you’re staring a double bogey directly in the face.

8. Ball resting on a tree root

One foot right or left and you’d have a clear shot to the green. Instead, you’re left to decide: Risk a season-ending wrist injury or take the one-stroke penalty?

7. Not finding your ball in the rough


Sergei Kozak

Playing with your buddies? Not a big deal, just drop another down. If you’re in competition, once those three minutes are up, you’re heading back to replay the shot.

6. Finding a divot in the fairway

You took one hole off from your army-golf routine, striped it down the middle and this is your reward?

5. Hitting a sprinkler head and bouncing over the green

You were playing the front-edge number, and you hit your spot. You also hit a foot-wide plastic disc, and now you’re in jail over the green.

4. Ball staying in a tree

Consider it payback for your corny 90-percent air joke as your ball headed for its improbable final resting place.

3. Hitting the back of the cup and bouncing out


Iam Anupong

We’re not talking about a putt carrying far too much speed. This is the putt that is halfway into the cup before taking one bounce off the back edge and coming back toward you. How did that happen?

2. Bounding off a cart path and going out of bounds

Perhaps the worst sound in golf: The click of ball meeting concrete and the subsequent 10-foot-high bounce past the white stakes. That’ll cost you a couple shots and a brand-new Pro V1.

1. Ricocheting off the flagstick

The worst of the worst. You’ve perfectly executed the shot, only for it to be rejected. If the ball bounds into a bunker or the water, congratulations, you’ve received the worst break in golf.