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Ken hits his drive into a water hazard, but his ball is playable on the bank of the hazard. Before playing his ball, he sees another ball at the edge of the water and scoops it out with his club. He suddenly remembers that it is a penalty to touch the water or ground with a club in a hazard before playing a stroke from the hazard.
There are exceptions under which a player is not penalized for touching the ground or water in a water hazard (Rule 13-4) before playing from the hazard.
There is no penalty if it happens:
1. in placing clubs in a hazard;
2. as a result of falling, or to prevent falling;
3. in measuring or in retrieving or lifting a ball under any Rule;
4. in removing an obstruction;
5. in searching for the player's ball (Rule 12-1).
Obviously, numbers one and two have no bearing here. Number three doesn't apply either; Ken is retrieving a ball, but he's not doing so under a Rule. Number five would help only if Ken thought the ball might be his; in this case, he didn't.
But what about Number four? This is the one that gets Ken off the hook. According to Decision 12-1/2, an abandoned ball is an obstruction. Therefore, Ken is allowed to touch the water and ground with his club in the process of retrieving it.

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