Originally Posted by sacm3bill
So why do they do it? I always thought it was to save time. (No need to hit a provisional if you have the opportunity to drop, and more likely to give up the search early.)
It may not be in accordance with the definition of a lateral hazard, but it's not silliness to improve pace of play, is it?
It is silliness to argue that an area that has no element of a water hazard is a lateral hazard.
While I agree that lateral marking is overused in many situations, in the over the green situation initially described it would not be outside the USGA course set-up guidelines to mark a lateral in that instance.
The course set-up guideleines DO allow for a water hazard to be marked as a lateral when to do otherwise would be
In order for a water hazard to qualify as a lateral water hazard, the body of water must be so situated that it is not possible or is deemed by the Committee to be impracticable for a player to drop a ball behind the hazard and keep the point at which the ball last crossed the margin of the hazard between the hole and the spot on which the ball is dropped.
A body of water which can be properly classified as a lateral water hazard includes a brook parallel to a hole if the terrain on the far side is rocky or wooded. In such a case, a player could not keep the brook between himself and the hole without dropping in extremely difficult terrain. Thus, if the brook were not defined as a lateral water hazard, the player would likely be faced with a stroke-and-distance penalty, which is too severe.
In the over the green situation it was impracticable to drop behind the hazard.