My subject for this blog is not on a Rule of Golf, but it is one that concerns many golfers. It is a fact that many golf course Committees wrongly define the margins of water hazards, especially lateral water hazards, by not including the sloping banks leading down to the water level within the margin. As can be seen from the rough sketch above, this may result in players who are taking relief from a lateral water hazard, under Rule 26-1, having to drop their ball on sloping ground, or at least having to take their stance on a slope with the ball above the level of their feet. This penalises the player twice, as they have already incurred a penalty stroke in taking relief from the hazard.
The R&A publish a book that I recommend that all Golf Committees should obtain, ‘Guidance on Running a Competition’. You can view a copy on-line at this link. Here is the most relevant paragraph, from Chapter 4, Section 3;
In general, lines or stakes defining the margins of a water hazard should be placed as nearly as possible along the natural limits of the hazard, i.e. where the ground breaks down to form the depression containing the water. This means that sloping banks will be included within the margins of the hazard. However, if, for example, there is a large bush just outside the natural margin of the water hazard, it is suggested that the bush be included within the hazard margins. Otherwise, a player whose ball entered the hazard in this area may not have a reasonable spot at which to drop.If any course that you play has water hazard stakes/lines in the wrong place make sure that the Committee is made aware of the above, authoritative recommendation.
It is especially important in the case of lateral water hazards to ensure that the sloping banks of the hazard are included within the margins so that a player dropping a ball within two club-lengths of the hazard margin will be dropping on ground from which he will have a reasonable opportunity to make a stroke. Where the margins are situated a reasonable distance away from the water itself and there is a likelihood that a player’s ball could be playable on the bank of the hazard, it is essential that the hazard is well marked so that the player realises that his ball is in a hazard and does not unwittingly breach Rule 13-4. (Rule 13-4 prohibits testing the condition of the hazard, grounding the club, or moving a loose impediment in the hazard.)
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