Golf Rule 26, Water Hazards (Including Lateral Water Hazards)
    Golf Rule 26, Water Hazards (Including Lateral Water Hazards) – Simplified Version



  • Note: According to the Rules, a “water hazard” can be a sea, lake, pond, river, creek, ditch or similar waterway, whether or not it contains water, that lies on the golf course. Regular water hazards are marked with yellow stakes and / or outlines, and anything within the boundary (including ground and the stakes / lines themselves) is part of the hazard.
  • A “lateral water hazard” is a water hazard (or part of one) that’s positioned in a way, in relation to the hole, that makes it impossible or impractical for a ball to be dropped behind it in keeping with the rules defined below. Lateral water hazards are marked by red stakes and / or lines.

    A ball can be played from within a regular or lateral water hazard under the methods described in Rule 13.

    26-1. If the player hits his ball into a regular water hazard (vs. a lateral hazard), he may do any of the following and take a one-stroke penalty:

  • Drop as close as possible to the spot where he played the previous shot.
  • Drop behind the water hazard, keeping the point where the ball last crossed the hazard directly between the hole and the drop spot. The player can go back as far as he likes on this line.
  • If dropping from a lateral hazard, the player takes a one-shot penalty and either:

  • Drops within two club-lengths, but no nearer the hole, of the spot where the ball crossed into the hazard, or
  • Drops at a spot on the opposite side of the hazard equidistant from the hole.
  • If it’s not certain whether the ball went into a water hazard, the player proceeds under the “stroke and distance” rule (27-1) as if the ball was lost or went out of bounds.

    The player can lift and clean his original ball, if it’s found in the hazard, or substitute another ball.

    26-2. If a player hits from a water hazard into the same or another water hazard, he can drop and play under the stroke-and-distance method (drop as close as possible to the previous spot, adding a one-stroke penalty). He does not have to play from the spot after taking the drop; in this case, he can:

  • Proceed according to the steps in Rule 26-1, with a one-stroke penalty, or
  • Go back to the tee or the spot through the green from which he initially hit into the hazard, with a one-stroke penalty.
  • If a player hits from a water hazard and his ball is lost, unplayable or out of bounds, he takes a one-stroke penalty and does one of the following:

  • Drops and plays another shot from the hazard, as close as possible to the point of the previous shot.
  • Adds another penalty stroke and proceeds under the steps in Rule 26.
  • Adds another penalty stroke, then goes back and plays from the tee or the spot through the green from which he initially hit into the hazard.
  • Penalties for violating Rule 26: Match play – Loss of hole. Stroke play – two strokes.
  • 26-1. Relief For Ball In Water Hazard
    It is a question of fact whether a ball that has not been found after having been struck toward a water hazard is in the hazard. In the absence of knowledge or virtual certainty that a ball struck toward a water hazard, but not found, is in the hazard, the player must proceed under Rule 27-1.

    If a ball is found in a water hazard or if it is known or virtually certain that a ball that has not been found is in the water hazard (whether the ball lies in 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 (see 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 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.

    When proceeding under this Rule, the player may lift and clean his ball or substitute a ball.

    (Prohibited actions when ball is in a hazard – see Rule 13-4)

    (Ball moving in water in a water hazard – see Rule 14-6)

    26-2. Ball Played Within Water Hazard
    a. Ball Comes to Rest in Same or Another Water Hazard

    If a ball played from within a water hazard comes to rest in the same or another water hazard after the stroke, the player may:(i) proceed under Rule 26-1a. If, after dropping in the hazard, the player elects not to play the dropped ball, he may:
    (a) proceed under Rule 26-1b, or if applicable Rule 26-1c, adding the additional penalty of one stroke prescribed by the Rule and using as the reference point the point where the original ball last crossed the margin of this hazard before it came to rest in this hazard; or
    (b) add an additional penalty of one stroke and play a ball as nearly as possible at the spot from which the last stroke from outside a water hazard was made (see Rule 20-5); or
    (ii) proceed under Rule 26-1b, or if applicable Rule 26-1c; or
    (iii)under penalty of one stroke, play a ball as nearly as possible at the spot from which the last stroke from outside a water hazard was made (see Rule 20-5).


    b. Ball Lost or Unplayable Outside Hazard or Out of Bounds

    If a ball played from within a water hazard is lost or deemed unplayable outside the hazard or is out of bounds, the player may, after taking a penalty of one stroke under Rule 27-1 or 28a:(i) play a ball as nearly as possible at the spot in the hazard from which the original ball was last played (see Rule 20-5); or
    (ii) proceed under Rule 26-1b, or if applicable Rule 26-1c, adding the additional penalty of one stroke prescribed by the Rule and using as the reference point the point where the original ball last crossed the margin of the hazard before it came to rest in the hazard; or
    (iii)add an additional penalty of one stroke and play a ball as nearly as possible at the spot from which the last stroke from outside a water hazard was made (see Rule 20-5).


    Note 1: When proceeding under Rule 26-2b, the player is not required to drop a ball under Rule 27-1 or 28a. If he does drop a ball, he is not required to play it. He may alternatively proceed under Rule 26-2b(ii) or (iii).


    Note 2: If a ball played from within a water hazard is deemed unplayable outside the hazard, nothing in Rule 26-2b precludes the player from proceeding under Rule 28b or c.


    PENALTY FOR BREACH OF RULE:Match play – Loss of hole; Stroke play – Two strokes.