Rules Column: Russ Wing

Options when in a lateral water hazard

During this year’s WJGA State Championship, I helped a player take relief from a Lateral Water Hazard (LWH) on the 12th hole at Meridian Valley Country Club (MVCC). As Rules Officials, we frequently help players take relief from LWHs. But this one was different in a couple of ways.

The 12th hole at MVCC is a par-3 with a LWH weaving its way through the hole. Please see the diagram in the exhibit accompanying this article.

The player hit his tee shot to the right of its intended line and it landed in the LWH. A quick look at the area where the ball landed showed that finding the ball in a playable position was virtually impossible. So attention shifted to getting the player relief from the LWH under Rule 26.

The first step when taking relief from a LWH is to determine where the ball last crossed the margin of the hazard. That point then becomes the reference point for taking relief. After a short conversation with the player, our best guess was that the ball last crossed the margin of the hazard at Point A.

Most players in a situation like this don’t want to go back to the tee (the stroke and distance option), so that option is rarely discussed. In this case, I mentioned the flag-line and 2 club-length options, and I could see that the player was thinking about how either of those options would result in a shot from a sketchy lie over a bunker to the green. When I mentioned that because this was a LWH he could elect to take relief from a spot equidistant from the hole on the opposite side of the hazard (Point B), he showed immediate interest in pursuing that option.

So … how did we find Point B? Because players in this event were allowed to use range finders, I asked him to use his to measure the distance from Point A to the flag. It was 36 yards. We then went over to the other side of the hazard and located Point B at 36 yards from the flag. He then dropped within 2 club-lengths of Point B, pitched his ball onto the green and sunk the putt.

The player combined a good relief option choice with good follow-on execution to achieve a good bogey save.