|Rule 26-2a: Ball played from A, within a water hazard, lands at B in the same water hazard|
It was pleasing for me to see Rory McIlroy put in a good performance at the WGC – HSBC Champions in Shanghai last week, finishing tied 6th, having led by 2 strokes after the opening round. He might have done even better had he not made what could have been a tactical error on the 18th hole of his second round, an incident that provides me with an opportunity to discuss a little known Rule of Golf that could help you in the future.
Rory’s tee shot on the 18th hole stopped just a yard from the lake on the right-side of the fairway, but inside the margin of a lateral water hazard, 228 yards from the hole. Instead of taking a relief by dropping outside of the hazard under penalty of one stroke (Rule 26-1), he decided to play the ball as it lay within the hazard. His ambitious attempt to reach the green in two came up short and his ball splashed into the water. Now, this is where many players might have been unsure of what options they have if a ball played from inside a water hazard, comes to rest inside the same hazard. To his credit, Rory obviously was familiar with Rule 26-2, as he took a penalty drop back on to the fairway, close to where his ball had last crossed the margin of the hazard, before the subsequent shot into the water. This drop gave him a distance of about 250 yards to the hole from a fairway lie and he hit a superb shot to within 15 feet, but missed the par putt and signed for a bogey 6 (1 – drive into the hazard, 2 – stroke into the water, 3 – penalty stroke for taking relief from the water hazard, 4 – stroke to the putting green, 5 & 6 – two putts to hole out).
The relevant point here is that Rule 26-2 affords players some relief after making a bad decision or stroke from within a water hazard. If a ball played from within the margin of a water hazard comes to rest within the same water or another water hazard, the player is entitled, under penalty of one stroke, to choose any of the options they had before making the stroke. For example, the player could drop a ball at the place from where their last stroke was made outside the hazard, or if it was a lateral water hazard, could drop a ball within two club-lengths of where their original ball last crossed the margin of the hazard (which was the option that Rory took). Rule 26-2a states;
Ball Comes to Rest in Same or Another Water HazardRule 26-2b covers what options are available when a ball played from within a water hazard is lost or deemed unplayable outside of the hazard, or is out of bounds. But that is for another day.
If a ball played from within a water hazard comes to rest in the same or another water hazard after the stroke, the player may:
(i) proceed under Rule 26-1a. If, after dropping in the hazard, the player elects not to play the dropped ball, he may:
(a) proceed under Rule 26-1b, or if applicable Rule 26-1c, adding the additional penalty of one stroke prescribed by the Rule and using as the reference point the point where the original ball last crossed the margin of this hazard before it came to rest in this hazard; or
(b) add an additional penalty of one stroke and play a ball as nearly as possible at the spot from which the last stroke from outside a water hazard was made (see Rule 20-5); or
(ii) proceed under Rule 26-1b, or if applicable Rule 26-1c; or
(iii)under penalty of one stroke, play a ball as nearly as possible at the spot from which the last stroke from outside a water hazard was made (see Rule 20-5).
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