In All Fairness

Senior Rules Officials Pete Scholz and Terry McEvilly

Rule 25 Abnormal Ground Conditions

“Relief from things unfair”, as it has become known, covers many situations that are not normally found on a golf course.  Namely, interference from obstructions and abnormal ground conditions that make the proper playing of the game difficult.  While an obstruction is an artificial (man-made) object, abnormal ground conditions might be the result of human activity but also includes natural causes.  Rule 25-1 provides relief without penalty from abnormal ground conditions and will look very similar to Rule 24 for relief from obstructions (covered in last month’s article).  Once again, the definitions will be vital to understanding this complex Rule.

Questions:  True/False

  1. A water hazard has overflowed its margins.  Any water outside the hazard margin is casual water and relief without penalty is available.
  2. A player’s stance is interfered with by a gopher hole.  Since the lie of the ball is not affected by the gopher hole the player is not allowed relief without penalty.
  3. A rut made by a greenkeeper’s tractor is automatically ground under repair.
  4. When taking relief under Rule 25, the ball may always be cleaned or substituted.
  5. Relief without penalty is available for interference from casual water in a bunker but not in a water hazard.
  6. A player’s ball lies between tree roots and it is physically impossible for him to make a stroke at the ball due to the roots.  However, when he takes his stance he is standing in casual water.  He may lift and drop the ball within one club-length of the nearest point of relief from the casual water.
  7. A ball is struck towards a large area marked as ground under repair.  The player is unable to find the ball but is positive it is within the area of ground under repair.  He may determine where the ball last crossed the margin of the ground under repair and take relief under Rule 25 from that point.
  8. If a player desires relief from ground under repair for the lie of his ball, he must take full relief and must make his next stroke without any interference from the condition to his stance or swing.
  9. There is no guarantee that after taking relief from an abnormal ground condition the ball will be in a playable lie.
  10. A ball lies in casual water in the fairway.  One of the relief without penalty options under Rule 25 is to drop the ball behind the casual water keeping where the ball originally lay between the hole and the spot of the drop.  There is no limit to how far behind the casual water the ball may be dropped.

Answers:

  1. True.   Decision 25/2 states that any overflow outside the margin of the hazard is casual water and the player would be entitled to relief without penalty provided his ball is not in the hazard.
  2. False.  Interference includes the player’s stance and the area of intended swing as well as the lie of the ball.  Therefore, the player may play the ball as it lies or take relief without penalty as described in Rule 25.
  3. False.  The player may ask the Committee to declare the rut to be ground under repair and the Committee would be justified in doing so but not if the rut is just a shallow indentation.  See Decision 25/16.
  4. False.  The first part of this question is true as it is permissible to clean the ball lifted under Rule 25 for relief.  However, a player may not substitute a ball when taking relief unless unreasonable effort is required to retrieve the ball.  See Note 2 under Rule 25-1.
  5. True.  Rule 25 and Note 1 provides the player with relief without penalty from an abnormal ground condition everywhere on the course except when the ball lies in a water hazard.  However, see Question #6 for an exception.
  6. False.  Rule 25 is intended to provide relief from abnormal ground conditions, such as casual water or burrowing animal holes, but an exception in the Rule prohibits relief if interference from anything other than the abnormal ground condition makes the stroke clearly impracticable.  In this case, the player’s only option is to declare the ball unplayable, incurring a one-stroke penalty under Rule 28. 
  7. True.  When a ball is believed to be lost in an abnormal ground condition the player may take relief without penalty provided he knows or is virtually certain that the ball is within the condition.  He may not simply assume the ball is within the condition under Rule 25.
  8. True.  Full relief from the condition is required under Rule 25.  If the player takes relief from the condition but makes his next stroke standing in the condition he would be in breach of Rule 25 and would incur a two-stroke penalty in stroke play or loss of hole in match play. 
  9. True.  It is wise to determine the nearest point of relief from the condition and the one club-length dropping area before lifting the ball.  It may be advantageous for the player to play the ball as it lies.
  10. False.   Relief without penalty under Rule 25 is very restrictive and in this case the player must determine the nearest point of relief from the casual water and drop within one club-length of this point.  If the player’s ball is in a bunker and he has interference from an abnormal ground condition he may choose to take relief without penalty within the bunker or under a one-stroke penalty outside the bunker keeping the spot where the ball lay between the hole and the spot of the drop.  There is no limit to how far behind the bunker he may drop.

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