RULE 26-1 Relief For Ball In Water Hazard states
In the last issue we covered the basics of water hazards and when we can consider a ball to be lost in one, enabling us to take relief as prescribed by Rule 26. This time we will look at relief options and some scenarios involving taking relief
“If a ball is found in a water hazard or if it known or virtually certain that a ball that has not been found is in the water hazard (whether the ball lies in the water or not), the player may, under penalty of one stroke;
(a) Proceed under the stroke and distance provision of Rule 27-1 by playing a ball as nearly as possible at the spot from which the original ball was last played (Rule 20-5); or
(b) 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 as to how far behind the water hazard the ball may be dropped; or
(c) 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.”
Take your time to read through these options, especially both options in (c) pertaining to lateral (red) hazards. It’s very sound advice to quickly run through your options in your head if you land in a water hazard, as it’s not always the most obvious drop that’s the most advantageous!
Where Did The Ball Last Cross The Margin Of The Water Hazard?
Rule 26-1 (b) & (c) both refer to the point where the ball last crossed the margin of the hazard. However, unless someone is on hand to witness it, you are usually watching your ball sail into the hazard from some distance away, so what happens if you make an error when estimating where the ball last crossed?
Let’s look at an example.
In stroke play Player A’s ball goes into a lateral water hazard and is not found. He uses his best judgement in determining the point where the ball last crosses the margin of the hazard and this point is agreed by Player B, his marker. Player A thus proceeds in taking relief from the hazard in accordance with Rule 26-1c and drops a ball within two club-lengths of and not nearer the hole than the agreed point. Player C, another fellow-competitor, then points out that he thinks the point is some 20 yards nearer the hole than the previously agreed spot, and a quick search reveals this to be the case as A’s ball is found in the hazard there. What is the correct procedure?
Decision 26-1/16 makes it clear that Player A has dropped his ball in a wrong place and must therefore correct his error (Rule 20-6) by dropping his ball correctly under any of the options available under Rule 26-1 with respect to the correct reference point and is now precluded from choosing to play the original ball from the hazard.
All well and good, but what happens if A had made a stroke at the ball dropped in the wrong place before C pointed out where he thought the ball was?
Decision 26-1/17 sensibly states that A must continue with the ball played from the wrong place, without penalty. Additionally, it states “Applying a penalty under Rule 26-1 for playing from a wrong place (see Rule 20-7) is not appropriate. Otherwise, a competitor would risk incurring a penalty every time he makes an honest judgement as to the point where his ball last crosses a water hazard margin and that judgement subsequently proves incorrect.”
So, proceed honestly and you can’t go wrong!