ARDMORE, Pa. – With all the rain that has fallen at Merion Golf Club leading into the U.S. Open and during Thursday’s first round, casual water has become a problem. The Definition of Casual Water says that it is any temporary accumulation of water on the golf course outside a water hazard that is visible before or after the player has taken his stance. Rule 25-1 – Abnormal Ground Conditions says that when a player’s ball is not in a water hazard and he has interference from casual water, the player is entitled to free relief.
Interference from casual water occurs when a player’s ball is in casual water, his stance is in casual water or his area of intended swing is interfered with by casual water, but not when the casual water is merely on his line of play, unless his ball is on the putting green and the casual water intervenes on his line of putt.
How does the player take relief from the casual water? That depends on where his ball lies.
If his ball is through the green (e.g. the fairway, fringe or rough), he should determine the nearest point which is the nearest point that is through the green and not nearer the hole which provides complete relief from the area of casual water. If he wishes to take relief, he must then drop the ball within one club-length of that point, not nearer the hole and in a place where there is no interference from the area of casual water. It may be that the player ends up moving from the rough to the fairway or from the fairway to the rough. There is no distinction in the Rules for these two areas under this Rule.
If the ball is on the putting green, the player should determine his nearest point of relief including for the line of putt. That point cannot be in a hazard, but it could be off the putting green. When taking relief for a ball which was on the putting green, he is required to place the ball at the nearest point of relief. It may be possible that there is no point of complete relief. In this case, the player needs to determine the nearest point that affords maximum available relief.
Finally, if the ball is in a bunker, there are more options available because casual water can present numerous complications. If complete relief is available in the bunker, the player may drop within one club-length of that point. The ball must be dropped in the bunker and must come to rest in bunker. If complete relief is not available, the player needs to determine the point of maximum relief and drop the ball at that point (no one club-length in this case). The point of maximum relief may be where the ball is out of the water, but the player’s feet are still in the water or it could be where the ball is half-inch of water as opposed to 2 inches of water.
But, when the player is faced with casual water in a bunker, he has another option, although this one will cost him a penalty stroke. The player may drop the ball outside the bunker, keeping the point where the ball lay in the bunker directly between hole and where the ball is dropped. He may go back as far as he desires in this case.
Written by John Van der Borght, manager of Rules communications for the USGA.