|Water hazard to left of stakes, lateral water hazard to right.|
It is an unfortunate fact that many golfers, even those that play regularly, do not appear to know the difference between a water hazard and a lateral water hazard, which may be important when deciding which relief option is the most appropriate in differing circumstances. So, why are there two types of water hazard? David Rickman, the R&A’s Executive Director – Rules and Equipment Standards, explains;
"The use of red and yellow markings and the existence in the game of two kinds of water hazards is an issue that’s been discussed on and off many times over the years. The main reason for retaining the yellow type of hazard is for holes when crossing a water hazard has strategic significance to the play of that hole. Two prominent examples are often sited, namely the 1st hole at St Andrews, where the player needs to negotiate the Swilcan Burn in front of the green and secondly, the 12th hole at Augusta, where the player has to cross Rae’s Creek. In both of those cases it is felt that the fundamental challenge of the hole is to negotiate that water hazard in front of the green and, therefore, any relief option that would allow the player in certain circumstances to drop on the greenside of the hazard is to be resisted. So I think that there are good reasons for keeping two kinds of water hazards. Particularly in elite play, the use of yellow hazards is highly appropriate but I would certainly accept that at recreational level and at lower competitive levels of the game a more general use of red hazards is both common and actually makes considerable sense as it can help players to play reasonably quickly in those circumstances."The first sentence of the Definition of Lateral Water Hazard gives us more information on the main factor that a Committee should consider before defining the type of 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 water hazard in accordance with Rule 26-Ib.Here is a reminder of the relief option in question, Rule 26-1b;
Drop a ball behind the water hazard, keeping the point at which the original ball last crossed the margin of the water hazard directly between the hole and the spot on which the ball is dropped, with no limit to how far behind the water hazard the ball may be dropped.If you think about this option you will see that in almost every situation this would require a ball to be dropped on the far side of the water from the hole, no matter where the ball was played from. The line is from the hole through the point where the ball last crossed the margin of the hazard. Despite what many golfers think, the line of flight of the ball into the hazard is of no relevance to the relief options.
(This next sentence was edited for clarification on 8th January 2014) If a ball that last crossed the margin of a lateral water hazard (defined by red stakes and/or lines) comes to rest within the hazard, the player has an additional two options to when a ball is within the margin of a water hazard (defined by yellow stakes and/or lines). These are detailed in Rule 26-1c;
As additional options available only if the ball last crossed the margin of a lateral water hazard, drop a ball outside the water hazard within two club-lengths of and not nearer the hole than (i) the point where the original ball last crossed the margin of the water hazard or (ii) a point on the opposite margin of the water hazard equidistant from the hole.So, for water hazards there are three options, the one noted above (Rule 26-1b), playing the ball out of the hazard without penalty, and proceeding under the stroke and distance provision of Rule 27-1. For lateral water hazards the same three options are available, plus the two in the previous paragraph under Rule 26-1c.
If the above explanation has left you in any way confused I strongly recommend that you view my two short, ‘Rhodes Rules School’ videos on taking relief from water hazards and lateral water hazards at this link.
Good golfing in 2014,
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