Is it In or Out?

Every once in a while I get a question about whether or not a ball is out of bounds when it hits something out of bounds and then comes to rest someplace else.

Here’s the scenario. Player A steps on to the tee on a par five hole that has a lateral water hazard running down the left side of the hole. Even further left, beyond the lateral hazard, is the typical row of Florida condos built too close to the golf course.

One of two out of bounds course markings are in effect.

  1. Either there are white stakes left of the hazard on the condo side, or
  2. There is a Local Rule in effect stating that the “homeowners side of a lateral water hazard is out of bounds.”

Wanting to get a little extra distance to reach it in two, player A really steps on it to get it out there. Regrettably, the dreaded snap hook strikes and the ball is launched way left of target toward the lateral water hazard with a ferocious hook.

Hooking badly, it goes left of the lateral hazard and strikes one of the condos. It ricochets off the condo and caroms back into the lateral water hazard.

What’s the ruling?

The lateral water hazard is in bounds and thus the ball is in bounds. The player may play the ball as it lies or, under penalty of one stroke, he may use any of the options available for a ball in a water hazard; Rule 26-1. Since this water hazard happens to be a lateral water hazard, the options under Rule 26-1c are also available.

Here are the options (all under penalty of one stroke):

26-1a - Play a ball as nearly as possible at the spot from where the original ball was last played (Rule 20-5); or

26-1b - Drop a ball behind the water hazard keeping the point at which the original ball last crossed the margin of the water hazard directly between the hole and the spot on which the ball is dropped. This option will not be available since the spot where you will drop is out of bounds and you can’t drop a ball out of bounds.

26-1c(i) - Drop a ball outside the water hazard within two club-lengths and not nearer the hole than where the original ball last crossed the margin of the hazard. This option also will not be available since the spot where you will drop is also out of bounds.

26-1c(ii) - Drop a ball outside the water hazard within two club-lengths and not nearer the hole than a point on the opposite margin of the lateral hazard equidistant from the hole. This is probably the best option and will allow you to drop on the fairway side of the lateral water hazard.

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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