Yes, you can be penalized in golf if your penalty drop goes back into the water
Golf Culture

Yes, you can be penalized in golf if your penalty drop goes back into the water

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Charley Hoffman went on a tirade against the USGA and the PGA Tour on Feb. 11 after his second round in the 2022 Waste Management Phoenix Open.

Hoffman said the USGA was an organization of amateurs who created the Rules of Golf, and he fumed that the PGA Tour did nothing to help him avoid a one-stroke penalty after he took a drop on the par-5 13th at TPC Scottsdale.

Hoffman's tee shot found the water on the par 5, and that required Hoffman to take a drop from the red-stake penalty area. Under Rule 14.3 of the Rules of Golf, a player is required to drop the ball into a relief area and then play the ball from there with a one-stroke penalty. Hoffman dropped the ball twice, and the ball did not remain in the relief area either time. Under the Rules of Golf, he is permitted to place the ball where it struck the relief area on the second try and play from there.

However, once the ball has been placed, it is deemed to be in play. If the ball moves due to what are considered "natural forces," then a player can replace the ball to its original position, without penalty, before hitting it. There's one caveat to that, though.

If a player has taken full, correct relief from a penalty area, and the player's ball then rolls naturally into a water hazard, the ball is considered lost (even if the player can easily see, identify and even retrieve the ball from the water). At that point, a player is assessed another one-stroke penalty, and they are entitled to the same relief they just took from the red-stake penalty area. The same would be true of a yellow-stake penalty area, although that's a less likely scenario.

You'll often see a player have their caddie standing or kneeling at the edge of a water hazard when their player drops the ball to make sure it doesn't go in the water, and that's to avoid having to fish the ball they intend to drop out of the aqua. However, once the ball is in play, a caddie or player cannot stop an in-play ball from moving ball into a watery penalty area.

Hoffman mistakenly believed the rule had been changed with the latest update to the Rules of Golf in 2019, but that has not changed.

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