Historically, a red stake in the ground of a golf course always indicated a water hazard. However, the term “water hazard” is no longer in the rule book. Instead, it’s been replaced by “penalty areas.”
Head Golf Professional at Hazeltine National Golf Club, Chandler Withington, takes us to Hazeltine’s Hole 11 to explain the new rule in this video:
What Indicates a Penalty Area?
The USGA defines a penalty area as “bodies of water or other areas defined by the Committee where a ball is often lost or unable to be played.”
In the case of this video, Chandler exemplifies a penalty area in Hazeltine as a spot with a lot of fescue grass. In late summer and fall, that fescue can get waist-high, and nearly impossible to find a ball, much less chip back out of it.
How Do Penalty Areas Apply to Your Game?
In the case of not being able to find or strike the ball, the player can drop a ball from knee height 2 club lengths from the penalty area.
Note that the ball must be dropped at around the area where it crossed into the penalty area, not where it’s sitting when it was found. So if it crossed into the penalty and then bounced forward 5 yards, the player will need to bring the ball back 5 yards and 2 club lengths in from the penalty area where it landed.
However, if the player can find the ball and deem it playable, they don’t need to take the penalty shot if they choose not to. The ball can still be played from the penalty area.
How Do Penalty Shots Affect Your Score?
Much like the water hazard relief that we formally knew, we add 1 to our score when we drop outside the penalty area. Again, if you take the shot from within the penalty area and opt out of dropping another ball, you don’t need to add a point to your score.
If you have any questions about the new USGA rules or golfing at Hazeltine, come visit us at our golf shop or contact us online!
Topics: Golf Tips