The Rules of Golf: Difference Between Yellow and Red Stakes?

Kate’s Rule School – Weekly Tips

As most of us are in the throes of spring and golf courses are re-opening after a long winter, I thought it would be nice to get back to one of the basic rules of golf that sometimes stumps us – Water Hazards.

Water hazards are out there on the course, and while we would rather not hit into them, there are times when we just don’t make the best swing and ‘splash’ goes our ball. When we reach the ‘water zones’ we either see red or yellow stakes that define the area. What do we do to get back into play within the rules of golf?

Definitions to know:

Water Hazard: A Water Hazard is marked with yellow stakes and/or yellow line. This is also referred to as a Direct Water Hazard.

Lateral Water Hazard: A Lateral Water Hazard is marked with red stakes and/or red line.

Situation 1:

Ken and Kate are playing golf on a fabulous golf course. The only problem they are having is negotiating all the water hazards that seem to be on every hole. Kate and Kate tee up on the 9th hole and Kate’s shot takes a right pathway off the clubface and heads right into the water. When they reach the approximate point where the ball crossed and dove into the water, they see it is marked with a yellow line and yellow stakes. What does Kate do?

Answer #1:

First, Kate must determine whether she is able to play the ball or not. She has 3 options for the Water Hazard (yellow stakes and/or yellow line).

  1. Kate can play the ball where it lies without penalty, or 
  2. Under penalty of one stroke, she can play the ball from where her last shot was played, or
  3. Under penalty of one stroke, she may drop the ball any distance behind the water hazard, keeping a straight line between the spot where the ball is dropped (A), the point where the ball last crossed the margin of the hazard (B) and the hole location (C). (see image below).

(please note that option #3 is not the line-of-flight of the ball as it entered the hazard. It is the line to the flag so it may be a different angle)

Water Hazard Rules 2

Once Kate has made her decision, she proceeds with one of the above 3 options and continues playing a wonderful round with Ken.

Situation 2:

Kate and Ken continue their round after Kate’s bummer-of-a-9th hole and all seems to be peachy until they come to hole 16. Ken tees up and stripes one down the middle. Kate steps up and crushes the ball down the right side of the fairway but she is yelling ‘SIT’. Kate is afraid she may have hit it too far right and long, reaching the water hazard about 300+ yards away (ok, maybe that is a bit exaggerated, but one can dream!).

As suspected, Kate did hit a monstrous drive and it found the water. They see that the hazard is marked with red stakes and a red line. They determine the ball is in a Lateral Water Hazard (red stake and/or red line). What are Kate’s options?

Answer #2:

In this scenario, there are 5 options for Kate.

  1. Kate can play it where it lies, or
  2. Under penalty of one stroke, she can play it from where her last shot was played, or
  3. Under the penalty of one stroke, she can drop the ball any distance behind the water hazard no nearer the hole as mentioned in detail above.
  4. Under penalty of one stroke, Kate can drop the ball within 2 club-lengths of the point where the ball last crossed the margin of the Lateral Water Hazard, but not nearer the hole (see illustrations below), or
  5. Kate can drop the ball within 2 club-lengths of a point on the opposite side of the Lateral Water Hazard, the same distance to the hole location as from where the ball last crossed the margin of the hazard. (this is an option that could be used near a stream running along the length of the fairway, for example).
Water Hazard Rules 1
You can use your driver to mark 2 club-lenghts
Water Hazard Rules
This illustrates how to drop the ball

Once Kate makes up her mind on the best option to get her back into play, she executes the option and continues on with her round with Ken.

As you can see, Kate had 3 options for a Water Hazard and 5 options for a Lateral Water Hazard.

Final Take

There is no player out in the world of golf that likes to hit into a hazard. It happens and when it does, it makes for a better round of golf knowing the rules and getting yourself back into play. Knowing The Rules of Golf make the game more fun for you and your playing partners.

I hope this week’s rules refresher (or introduction) will help you when your little white ball decides it needs a bath.

‘keep smiling and always believe’

Written by BP Staff

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