Course Marking: Water Hazards and Lateral Water Hazards

Rule 33-2 states that the Committee must accurately define:

  1. the course and out of bounds,
  2. the margins of water hazards and lateral water hazards,
  3. ground under repair, and
  4. obstructions and integral parts of the course.

Last month we looked at marking out of bounds, this month, we look at defining water hazards and lateral water hazards.

General

As per the definitions of water hazards and lateral water hazards in the Rules of Golf, stakes or lines used to define the margins of a water hazard must be yellow and, in the case of lateral water hazards, they must be red.

Stakes or lines, or a combination of stakes and lines can be used to define the margins of water hazards and lateral water hazards. Where both stakes and lines are used, the line defines the hazard margin, therefore, where both stakes and lines are used it is recommended to position the stakes outside the line defining the margin of the water hazard.  A ball is in a water hazard when it lies in or any part of it touches the water hazard.

Bridge

When stakes and lines are used, it is recommended to position the stake outside the hazard and ensure they are movable.

When only stakes are used for definition, a straight line from stake to stake along the outside edge of the stakes at ground level determines the limit of the hazard. 

What is the difference between a water hazard and a lateral water hazard?

The distinction between a water hazard and a lateral water hazard is that if a player’s ball last crosses the margin of a normal water hazard it will be possible for the player to take relief by dropping a ball behind the hazard keeping the point at which the ball last crossed the margin of the hazard between the hole and the spot on which the ball is dropped (see Rule 26-1b). If this is (i) not possible, e.g. due to the course boundary, or (ii) the Committee deem it to be impracticable, e.g. because of trees or bushes, the Committee should normally define this as a lateral water hazard.

If a ball is in a lateral water hazard, the player has the additional option of dropping a ball outside the water hazard within two club-lengths of and not nearer the hole than the point where the original ball last crossed the margin of the water hazard or a point on the opposite margin of the water hazard equidistant from the hole (see Rule 26-1c).

Where to place the stakes / lines?

In general, lines or stakes defining the margins of a water hazard should be placed 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.  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.

Bridge

Care must be taken to ensure that no area that should be within the hazard lies outside the line (see Decision 26/2). On the other hand, where the natural limit of the hazard is obvious, for example, where the ground breaks at 90°, the Committee may use stakes to simply indicate the type of hazard, provided the Local Rules state that the margins are defined by where the ground breaks.

If a body of water is part water hazard and part lateral water hazard, a yellow stake and a red stake should be placed side by side where the change in status takes place. This applies even if the hazard is defined by a line. This practice assists players in determining the status of the hazard where the ball last crossed the margin.

What about bridges?

BridgeA bridge is an obstruction and, depending on the size of the bridge, the nature of the hazard and the hazard margins, some or all of the bridge may lie within the margin of the water hazard.  When marking a hazard with stakes, stakes should be put in place either side of the bridge to allow the portion of the bridge within the hazard to be easily identified, i.e. that portion of the bridge from stake to stake.  When marking a water hazard with lines it is more obvious what part of the bridge is in and what is not in the water hazard, although be careful – the greenkeeper may not be too happy if you paint red or yellow lines on his beautiful Swilcan Bridge replica.  Note:  a ball lying on an obstruction within a water hazard must be played as it lies or the player must proceed under Rule 26-1, i.e. there is no relief without penalty.  The player may touch the bridge (obstruction) with his club (as per the Note to Rule 13-4).

Further guidance on course marking can be found in the ‘Marking the Course’ section of Guidance on Running a Competition section of the website.