“What’s the Difference Between a Water Hazard Marked Yellow and One Marked Red”
There are two types of water hazards. One is marked by yellow stakes or lines and the other is marked by red stakes or lines. You begin with the assumption that every water hazard in the world is a “yellow” or “regular” water hazard. Then, a subset exists for those water hazards that meet a certain condition or criteria and those are the “red” or “lateral” water hazards.
Let’s look at the important parts of the definitions to find the difference.
Water Hazard - “A water hazard is any sea, lake, pond, river, ditch, surface drainage ditch or other open water course (whether or not containing water) and anything of a similar nature on the course.” (This part is true for both yellow and red water hazards)
Now let’s look at what sets them apart. It comes from the definition of a lateral water hazard.
Lateral Water Hazard - “A lateral water hazard is a water hazard or that part of a water hazard so situated that it is not possible, or is deemed by the Committee to be impracticable, to drop a ball behind the hazard in accordance with Rule 26-1b.”
So the difference boils down to whether or not you can act in accordance with Rule 26-1b. That Rule gives you the ability to drop a ball behind the water hazard, under penalty of one stroke, keeping the spot where the ball last crossed the margin of the water hazard between the hole and the spot on which the ball is dropped, with no limit as to how far behind the water hazard the ball may be dropped.
If you were playing hole number 18 at Pebble Beach (lucky you) and you hit your second shot (or third) left of the green into the Pacific ocean, you would not be able to drop a ball behind the water hazard keeping the spot where the ball last crossed the margin of the water hazard between the hole and the spot on which the ball is dropped unless you could get to Hawaii or someplace in the South Pacific!
That would trigger the water hazard to be defined as a lateral water hazard and marked red. You would then be entitled to option three (26-1c) of the Water Hazard Rule.
You could drop a ball no nearer the hole and 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 under penalty of one stroke.
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.