water hazard ball rolls backwards

Golf Rule When Ball Rolls Back into Water

In golf, things don’t always go as we wish them to. In one case in particular you might find yourself getting ready to hit your next golf shot over water.

After hitting the golf shot over the water successfully, it lands on the green or the grass short of the green which happens to slope down towards the water, sending your ball rolling backwards into a water hazard.

So how do golf rules allow for you to take relief? Do you still go behind the water source and drop? Even though the ball flew over the water and landed on ground first before rolling back into water.

It really depends on what type of water hazard your ball rolled into.

Lateral Water Hazard Ruling:

Lateral water hazards run down the golf course (think tee to green water, like a stream or river). These get treated with a two clubs length relief from the point where the ball last crossed the margin of the lateral water hazard.

Or you can also find a point equidistant from the hole on the opposite margin of the hazard from where the ball last crossed into the hazard. But it cannot be dropped nearer to the hole.

Or you can play from as near as possible to the spot that the original golf shot was last played (Rule 26-1a).

Whichever of these three options you choose, you’ll incur a one-stroke penalty.

Yellow Stakes / Lines

In this situation, just like with the lateral hazard, a golfer may play his/her next shot from as close to the original point the previous shot was just played from (Rule 26-1a).

Or you can drop the golf ball behind the hazard, keeping the point where it crossed the margin in line with the flagstick on the green. Picture drawing a line from where the ball crossed into the water and the flagstick.

Golf Resource: Foy Golf Academy Practice System + Practice Plans

Dropping on Putting Green Side of Water

In some cases of the lateral hazards (red stakes / lines) and yellow stake / line hazards, your ball may be able to be dropped on the putting green size of the water hazard. This only happens if it still meets the rule outlines above.

You’ll incur a one stroke penalty, regardless for water hazards, but some options are better than others in helping give your next golf shot a higher chance of landing on the green. Or in some cases, avoiding even more trouble.

Analyze your situation, discuss it with a playing partner if you’re unsure, and as always, have a rule book or website handy to open up if you have questions on golf rules during your 18 hole round.