Not all hazards are created equally, and the USGA is on a mission to make sure two different kinds of water hazard rules are followed correctly. In their yearly wrap-up, the USGA reported that their referees were called in to make a ruling most frequently when it comes to a penalty that most amateurs deal with on a pretty regular basis.
Most of the confusion stems from the type of water hazard the player finds him or herself taking relief from: a regular water hazard, which is marked by yellow stakes, or a lateral water hazard, which is marked by red stakes. The common mistake is made when this distinction is not taken into account.
In addition to playing a ball in a water hazard as it lies, the player has the following options for relief from a yellow water hazard:
- Proceed under stroke and distance by dropping a ball at the spot of the previous stroke.
- Determine the spot where the ball last crossed the margin of the water hazard and then drop a ball on a straight line from the flagstick through that spot going back as far as the player would like.
For a ball in a lateral (red) water hazard, a player has the options above, plus the following additional options:
- Drop within two club lengths of and not nearer the hole than the point where the ball last crossed the margin of the water hazard.
- Drop within two club lengths of and not nearer the hole than the point on the opposite margin of the water hazard that is equidistant from the hole.
Make sure to take into account the type of water hazard you are taking relief from in order to avoid additional penalty strokes.
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