Water hazards, which strike fear into the hearts weekend golfers, often confront the player whose ball has landed in a watery abyss Water Hazardswith several options.· The options vary depending on whether the hazard is a generic water hazard (marked by yellow stakes or lines) or a “lateral water hazard” (marked by red stakes or lines).· 

In all cases, the player is subject to a one-stroke penalty if he or she opts to take relief from the hazard.· Keep in mind, however, that the player always has the option of playing the ball from the hazard.

If it is “known or virtually certain” that a ball is in a water hazard, Rule 26-1 provides two general relief options:

•·Play from the spot from which the ball was last played.
•·Drop a ball behind the water hazard.· The ball must be dropped on an imaginary line demarcated by the hole and the point where the ball last crossed the margin of the hazard.· There is no limit to how far behind the hazard the ball may be dropped.·

In addition, if the ball is in a lateral water hazard, the player has two additional options:

Water Hazards

•·Drop a ball outside the hazard within two club-lengths of (and not nearer the hole) than either (a) the point where the ball last crossed the margin of the hazard, or (b) a point on the opposite margin of the hazard that is equidistant from the hole.· (Decision 26-1/15 contains an illustration·explaining this option.) These additional options are designed to provide relief where it is impossible or impractical to drop behind the hazard, such as where a body of water parallels the hole.

If a drop area has been designated, the player may use that option in lieu of the options under Rule 26.

Note that Rule 26 only applies if it is “known or virtually certain” the ball is in the water hazard.· Otherwise, if the ball is not found, it must be treated as a lost ball under Rule 27, and the player must play another ball from the spot where the ball was last played, taking a one-stroke penalty.· (For an explanation of the meaning of “known or virtually certain,” see Decision 26-1/1.)

All ground and water within the margin of a water hazard are part of the hazard.  If the hazard is marked by both stakes and lines, the lines designate the margin of the hazard and a ball touching the line is in the hazard.  An unmarked ditch may be treated as a water hazard or lateral water hazard, depending on its configuration.   

Jack Ross completed an intensive PGA/USGA rules workshop and has officiated at state amateur competitions.  Rules questions may be directed to [email protected].