Water Hazard Relief According to the Rules of Golf

Duration: 2:03

You think your tee shot ended up in a lateral water hazard along the fairway. But how sure are you? Well, according to the rules of golf, your level of certainty could mean the difference between taking relief and heading back to the tee with an extra stroke on your card. In this lesson, we take a dive into the concept of virtual certainty and demonstrate what happens when you’re uncertain whether your golf ball is lost in a water hazard.

Uncertainty and the rules of the water hazard

If you’re like most amateur golfers, you’ve probably always played the above situation like so: “I think I ended up in the water hazard, so I’ll just take relief and move on.” That may work when you’re just playing for fun, however, the rules of golf actually dictate that that decision should cost you a penalty, and an attuned playing partner might just call you out on it.

To show you why, Mark Wilson of the PGA Rules Committee introduces a situation where the ball could’ve come to rest in a few alternative spots in addition to a water hazard. Say, for instance, the water you think swallowed your tee shot is surrounded by thick undergrowth, dirt mounds or cattails. Could it be possible that your ball is lost in one of these other spots?

In demonstrating this distinction, Mark talks about Rule 26, which states a player can only take relief from a water hazard if there’s almost no doubt their ball is lost in the water hazard. He discusses what happens if that is not the case, and explains why it can be so important for the outcome of your round that you make the right call. When you play your round in line with the rules of golf, you leave no room for uncertainty. Stay in the know!

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