Rules Corner

Playing Ball From A Water Hazard

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OMAHA, Neb. – During the first two rounds of the U.S. Senior Open at Omaha Country Club, three players tried to play balls from inside water hazards and failed to get them out.  One of those players even made a second stroke and still didn’t get it out.  When you’ve made a stroke at a ball from inside a water hazard without getting the ball out and then you either can’t or don’t want to try to make another stroke from the hazard, what do the Rules allow you to do?

Rule 26-1, Water Hazards (Including Lateral Water Hazards), tells you what you can do if your ball is in a water hazard and you want to take a one-stroke penalty to get it out. 

b_LukeDonaldOpen --- Luke Donald plays from the creek on the fourth hole during  
Luke Donald was able to extract his ball from a hazard on Merion's fourth hole during last month's U.S. Open. (USGA/Hunter Martin)  
The USGA has a video in its Rules of Golf Explained series that demonstrates the two one-stroke penalty relief options you have when your ball is in a water hazard marked yellow and the four options you have when the hazard is marked red (click here to see that video). However, neither Rule 26-1 nor the video tells you what the relief options are if you try to play your ball from a water hazard and fail to get it out, as happened to three players this week.

Rule 26-2 (Ball Played Within Water Hazard) explains those options, and they are quite simple. All the original one-stroke penalty options available before a player plays a ball from a water hazard are still available after that player plays and fails to extricate the ball, plus one more option.

For a ball not extricated from a water hazard marked yellow, players have their two original options: 1) Go back to the spot of the previous stroke played from outside the water hazard, and 2) drop a ball behind the hazard anywhere on a straight line drawn from the hole through the spot where the ball last crossed the hazard’s yellow margin as it went in. The additional option is to drop a ball in the water hazard at the spot where the unsuccessful stroke was just made (based on the previous lack of success, this is usually not an option that players choose).

For a ball not extricated from a lateral water hazard (one marked red), players have their four original options: 1) Go back to the spot of the previous stroke played from outside the water hazard, 2) drop a ball behind the hazard anywhere on a straight line drawn from the hole through the spot where the ball last crossed the hazard’s red margin as it went in, 3) drop a ball within two club-lengths of and not nearer the hole than where the ball last crossed the red margin as it went into the hazard, and 4) find a spot the same distance from the hole as where the ball went into the lateral water hazard that is on the hazard’s opposite margin and drop a ball within two club-lengths of and not nearer the hole than that spot. The additional option is to drop a ball in the water hazard at the spot where the unsuccessful stroke was just made.

Remember, if you try to play a ball from a water hazard and don’t get it out, you still have all of your original water hazard one-stroke penalty options, plus the added option of dropping right back at the spot where you just played from within the hazard.

For more information on the Rules of Golf, go to the Rules of Golf page at http://www.usga.org or watch the Rules of Golf Explained videos at http://www.usga-rules.com/.

Written by David Staebler, director of Rules Education for the USGA. Email him at dstaebler@usga.org.

 

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