“I Tried to Hit My Ball Out of the Water Hazard but Didn’t Get It Out”

Your last shot ended up in a water hazard and you thought that you had the skill to hit it out from there and save yourself a penalty stroke. However, after your failed attempt, the ball never came out and actually rolled back down into deep water. Now what do you do?

This is a scenario that occurred on the 9th hole at the inaugural Women’s Mid-Amateur Championship last week at Lakewood Ranch’s King’s Dunes Course when a player hit her ball into the lateral water hazard to the left of the green.

This is one of the least understood Rules and considered to be one of the more complex – Rule 26-2a.

This Rule applies in the very specific case of when a ball:

  • Comes to rest in a water hazard or lateral water hazard, and
  • After attempting to play it from the water hazard, the ball comes to rest in the same or another water hazard.

The key to getting this Rule and your options correct is to remember:

  1. Where did you play your last stroke from outside the water hazard, and
  2. Where is the reference point of where the your ball last crossed the margin of the water hazard. This reference point never goes away until your ball actually leaves the water hazard again as a result of a stroke.
  3. If your ball does leave the hazard and then either rolls back into the same water hazard or comes to rest in another water hazard, you have a new reference point of where the ball last crossed the margin of the hazard (This spot replaces B above).

Armed with that knowledge, let’s take a look at the different scenarios:

1)      First, you may play it as it lies and try to hit it out  – no penalty. You can keep trying and trying if you wish with no limit as to the number of strokes you attempt. If you finally cry “Uncle” after not successfully escaping the confines of the water hazard, or

2)      You don’t bother to attempt to play it as it lies, and rather save yourself a ball and go right to the options under penalty of one stroke, here they are:

·         Stroke and distance; drop a ball back in the hazard at the spot of your previous stroke – adding one penalty stroke, or

·         Drop a ball outside the hazard at the spot from where you made your last stroke outside of the hazard (see item A above) – adding one penalty stroke, or

·         Drop a ball outside the hazard keeping the spot where the ball last crossed the margin of either a water hazard or lateral water hazard  (see item B above) between you and the flagstick going back as far as you would like – adding one penalty stroke, or

·         Drop a ball outside the hazard, no nearer the hole, within two club-lengths of where the ball last crossed the margin of a lateral water hazard (see item B above) or within two club-lengths of a spot equidistant on the opposite margin of where the ball last crossed the margin of a lateral hazard (see item B above) – adding one penalty stroke

The reason this Rule even exists is that a player is not allowed to use the Unplayable Ball Rule (Rule 28) when her ball is in a water hazard.

Consider this example. If my ball were in a water hazard and as a result of stroke, I drove it straight down into the mud. Thinking I have it in me, I take another swing and drive it further down into the mud. If I am no longer able to play it as it lies, what options would I have?

1)      You are not allowed to take an unplayable when your ball lies in a water hazard, so that’s out.

2)      Stroke and distance gets me back to a buried lie in the mud so that’s out.

3)      If not for this Rule, I would have no other options and therefore would be done playing golf for that day and not able to finish my round.

4)      My only option is to go home!

In essence, this Rule allows you to go into a water hazard and play as many strokes as you would like. Just remember you always have the option to get out of the hazard using the two reference spots; they never go away until you get out of that hazard. Each time you hit it further into the hazard, you start back at the top of the list with your options.

Remember, it pays to know the Rules. Knowing the Rules of Golf can help you save strokes and enjoy the game of golf.

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