The two main hazards on a golf course are water and sand.
You may never "ground your club" in a hazard.
This means you may not allow your clubhead to touch the ground before striking the ball.
If you do you will incur a two-stroke penalty.
You must also not:
- Test the condition of the sand or water or mud in the hazard
- Remove any "loose impediments" from the hazard such as stones, twigs or leaves or touch them when addressing the ball or on the back swing
RED WATER HAZARD
Red stakes are used to mark a lateral water hazard.
This can be exactly the same as a normal water hazard - and in some cases may be a different stretch of the same stream.
But instead of running across a hole, a lateral water hazard runs towards it.
Because of this it is not possible to drop the ball behind the water in the same way for a normal water hazard.
The rules for playing and dropping the ball are the same as for the normal water hazard except in one regard.
A player can drop a ball within two clubs lengths of where the ball crossed the hazard on either side of the ditch as long as it is no nearer the hole.
YELLOW WATER HAZARD
A normal water hazard is marked by yellow stakes.
The stakes are movable obstructions so if they interfere with the ball or your stance you can usually move them without penalty.
The entire area of the ditch between the yellow stakes is deemed to be the hazard, not just the water.
So even if your ball lands on the bank, you may still not ground your club or remove twigs etc.
If the ball is lying in the water you may attempt to play it, but may not use any artificial aid to help your stance - although you can take off your shoes and socks!
If you decide not to play the ball or if it is known or virtually certain that a ball that has not been found is in a water hazard, you may either:
- Opt to take a one-shot penalty and drop a ball behind the hazard, keeping the point where the ball last crossed the margin of the hazard, flag and point where the drop takes place in a straight line. Or...
- Play the ball from the place nearest to the spot you played the original shot which landed in the ditch for a one-shot penalty
- Always rake a bunker after use - and not just your own footprints
- Always walk in and out of a bunker at its lowest point - the face takes years to develop
- Leave rakes outside the bunker. "On balance, it is felt there is less likelihood of an advantage or disadvantage to the player," says the R&A.