A lot of golfers didn’t know that they had five options when they hit the ball into a lateral water hazard. Essentially, they were:
- Re-hit (stroke and distance).
- Play it as it lies.
- Drop within two club lengths of the point where the ball last crossed the margin of the hazard.
- Drop on a line back from the last crossed point and the hole.
Drop within two club lengths on the opposite side of the hazard from where the ball last crossed the margin.
Those five options are visible in this graphic as A, B, C, D, and E, in the same order as above. Options “G” and “F” in the graphic below are invalid options (F appears to be someone dropping back along the “line of flight” and “G” is someone dropping perpendicular to the hazard on the opposite margin rather than the same distance from the hole as option C).
The 2019 change to this rule simply removes one option for red penalty areas. I’ve crossed off option E, dropping within two club lengths from the opposite margin of the hazard, as that is no longer an option in 2019.
So, in 2019, if you don’t wish to play it as it lies, relief options under Rule 17.1d are:
- Stroke-and-Distance relief (A in the image above).
- Back-On-the-Line relief (D in the image above).
- Lateral relief (C in the image above).
There is no more fourth relief option (see note at the very bottom). This is expressed in this image from the USGA/R&A:
Not shown above is playing the ball as it lies. (The image shows only relief options, and playing the ball as it lies does not require “relief.”)
Note: A Committee is permitted to establish relief on the opposite margin of a hazard via a Local Rule in 2019, though we expect this to be rare.
A club I know well will have something like this for a Local Rule in January:
Local Rule 3 – On hole #16, as an additional relief option for a ball in the penalty area marked by red stakes with white tops, relief may be taken on the opposite side of the penalty area at an equal distance from the hole. The player may drop a ball within two club-lengths of the opposite edge of the penalty area and add one penalty stroke.
(This Local Rule is necessary because a ball entering the penalty area from the hillside on the left might leave the player with no good lateral relief area option on that side.)