My Ball Went Into a Red Water Hazard - Two Club-lengths Right?
Not so fast! Way too many times I have seen players under the impression that since their ball is in a lateral (red) water hazard, they must drop a ball within two club-lengths of where it last crossed the margin of the hazard.
That is dead wrong and you may be costing yourself strokes if you think it is your only option.
You have more options available to you although they all will cost a one-stroke penalty.
The first option (Rule 26-1a) allows you to drop a ball from where you last played and try it again from there. Sometimes it may be a good option, although you may have some bad memories of the previous shot. This often times occurs when a ball has been played from the teeing ground into a water hazard.
The second option (Rule 26-1b) allows you to keep the point where the ball last crossed the margin of the hazard between the hole and the spot on which you drop, with no limit as to how far behind the water hazard the ball may be dropped. This is an important option that can you save you strokes.
Instead of dropping within two club-lengths, you may use this option to drop behind the hazard on what we call the flagline, going back as far as you would like. This option may afford you the opportunity to drop back in the fairway on a nice flat lie as opposed to the two club-lengths option forcing you to play off a downhill or side hill lie in the rough.
The third option (Rule 26-1c) is the one that allows you to drop a ball no nearer the hole and a) within two club-lengths of the point where the ball last crossed the margin of the lateral water hazard or b) no nearer the hole and within two clubs of a point on the opposite margin of the water hazard that is equidistant from the hole from the spot where the ball last crossed the margin of the lateral water hazard.
And finally, don’t forget to check to see if there is a drop zone that has been installed to afford yet another option under penalty of one stroke. Drop zones are often installed on a flat area, sometimes a forward tee, which gives you an easier shot than the last you just hit into the water.
Remember, use the index or the table of contents to find the correct Rule that applies to the situation and follow the Rules of Golf to help yourself to enjoy the game of golf.