Water Hazards; What are my Options?

I may have already told you about your options from a water hazard but some things are worth repeating. This is a fundamental Rule that we are faced with so much in Florida that you need to have this one down pat.

Before we get to the relief options, let me say that you can go into the hazard and attempt to play the ball as it lies without penalty, provided the hazard is not an Environmentally Sensitive Area (ESA). Best of luck!

However, if discretion is the better part of valor and you wish to drop out of the hazard under penalty of one stroke, here are your options under the water hazard Rule (Rule 26).

  • The first option for both lateral (red stakes and/or lines) and regular water hazards (yellow stakes and/or lines) is the stroke and distance option. Go back and play your next stroke from where your previous stroke was played (Rule 20-5).
  • The second option for both lateral (red) and regular water hazards (yellow) is to drop a ball behind the hazard, keeping the point where the ball last crossed the margin of the hazard between the hole and the spot on which the ball is dropped with no limit to how far behind that reference point the ball may be dropped.
  • The third option, available only for lateral water hazards (red), is to drop a ball outside the hazard within two club-lengths and not nearer the hole than
    • the point where the ball last crossed the margin of the hazard; or
    • a point on the opposite margin of the hazard equidistant from the hole.

Everybody wants to jump on the third option! Not so fast. Dropping within two club-lengths can often leave you a side hill lie, on a down slope, still behind a tree or even worse; an uncomfortable half a club yardage. Why not go back to your favorite yardage or a more comfortable yardage and drop on an often times flatter lie where you can hit over the tree with a full swing using the second option?

The next time you face a ball in a water hazard Situation, take a moment and look at all of your options before you jump to the third option.

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.

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