Golf Rules: The difference between red and yellow hazard stakes

Water hazards are defined by red or yellow stakes. What is the difference?

OceanShores003aFirstly, yellow stakes define a “water hazard” and red stakes define a “lateral water hazard” and the options for correctly proceeding are similar but there is one difference which is very important to know.

For both red and yellow stakes you may under the penalty of one stroke (Rule 26-1a) “Play a ball as nearly as possible at the spot from which the original ball was last played”.

For both red and yellow stakes you may, under the penalty of one stroke (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;

Now here’s the difference. What if a water hazard lies along the side of a fairway? Or to put another way, what if the hazard lies “laterally” with respect to the fairway? It’s near impossible to apply Rule 26-1b as you cannot define a straight line between where the ball crossed the hazard and the hole.

Hence the need for an additional rule applying to lateral water hazards (red staked hazards) only.

For red stakes only, (Rule 26-1c) “…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.”

Maybe this is obvious but I’ve lost track of the number of times golfers, experienced golfers, have misunderstood this rule.

6 thoughts on “Golf Rules: The difference between red and yellow hazard stakes

  • October 21, 2009 at 21:23
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    Michael,

    I have two short videos explaining the relief options for water hazards (yellow stakes and/or lines) and lateral water hazards (red stakes and/or lines) on my blog page;
    http://tinyurl.com/qvds42
    which also explains why Padraig Harrington walked back to the other side of the pond after pitching his ball into the water on the 16th hole at the Bridgestone International last August.

    Many golfers have told me that these videos helped them understand how to take correct relief from water hazards for the first time.

    It is good to see someone else blogging on the Rules of Golf.

    Barry Rhodes

    (P.S. I will understand if you choose not to publish this comment. Feel free to edit it in any way you think appropriate).

    Reply
  • October 22, 2009 at 07:36
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    It’s a rule that will always confuse. I play off 6 and I was playing with a guy off 3 and it took us five minutes to agree what the ruling was on a lateral hazard. And that’s why I prefer links golf – no water hazards, just sea

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  • October 23, 2009 at 05:04
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    Mike,

    Top marks. Lateral water hazards in particular can be confusing. One point; a lateral water hazard does not necessarily run alongside the fairway, it is any area that the committee have designated as a lateral hazard and marked with Red stakes. There can even be occasion when by choosing the opposite side of the hazard you can drop your ball on the green with a clear line of putt.

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  • October 29, 2009 at 19:12
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    Could you explain the situation where you drop on the opposite side of the hazard, equidistant from where you initially went into the hazard and be on the green with a clear line of putt?

    Tks

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  • November 1, 2009 at 03:14
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    Re Anonymous. Decision 26-1/14 illustrates such a situation. It is possible where a tongue of a lateral hazard intrudes into the line of play that an advantage may be gained by dropping on the opposite margin of the hazard which may even allow a clear line of putt to the flag.

    Mickleson in the Singapore Open lost his ball in a lateral hazard. Fortunate for him he cleared the hazard before hitting a tree and rebounding into the water. However, it was interesting to see that he explored the possibilities of dropping on the opposite margin of the hazard before making his decision.

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  • November 1, 2009 at 23:56
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    Thanks Cliff. It would be rgeat to try and get some footage of this. We’ll be revisiting all of this in the near future.

    Reply

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