Lateral water hazard in golf – A Beginners Guide

Golf rules can be complex and can sometimes even leave seasoned golfers confused on what exactly to do. That’s why we’ve put together this article explaining what a lateral water hazard is. So you can make sure you have a full understanding of this golf rule.

What is a lateral water hazard?

A lateral water hazard is a body of water than runs alongside the golf hole. The reason this water hazard is different from others is that you are not able to take a drop behind it.

With a typical water hazard you may drop behind the water. This typically occurs when you have put a ball in the water. But with a lateral hazard the water will run alongside the entire hole meaning there is no “behind”.

The main difference in this type of hazard is that it offers you different relief options.

What to do when you hit into a lateral water hazard

When you hit into a lateral water hazard you have two options. First, you can drop the ball where you previously hit and take a single penalty stroke.

Your second option is to place the ball where it entered into the lateral hazard. You must place the ball within two club-lengths from the hazard but no closer to the hole.

How many strokes will I be penalized if I hit into one of these hazards?

If you drive into a lateral water hazard your next shot after your drop will be your third.

1st shot – Drive

2nd Shot – Penalty Stroke

3rd Shot – Current shot

If you happen to hit your second shot into a one of these hazards then your next shot would be your fourth.

How many club lengths for lateral hazard

For a lateral hazard, your ball should be placed within two club-lengths at the point of entry into the lateral hazard no closer to the hole.

What to do if your course treats the woods as a lateral hazard?

If your course treats the woods or forest as a lateral hazard then you will likely have to take a drop.

Do you think your ball is playable? If so you can attempt to hit out of the lateral hazard.

If not you will either drop your ball from where you took your last shot with an additional penalty stroke. Or you must take a one-stroke penalty and drop the ball within two club-lengths of where you entered the hazard.


We hope you enjoyed our guide to understanding lateral hazards. If you have any questions regarding these rules or any information from our article feel free to reach out in the comments below.

If you did enjoy reading this article and want to see more we encourage you to check out our guide to understanding hybrid golf clubs.

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