|Casual water on the 4th hole at Roundel Glen Golf Course|
An “abnormal ground condition” is any casual water, ground under repair or hole, cast or runway on the course made by a burrowing animal, a reptile or a bird.Note that there is no relief from the footprints of animals or birds, which is a common misunderstanding. Also, remember that there is no relief from interference by an abnormal ground condition when the ball lies in a water hazard or a lateral water hazard, Rule 25-1b.
It is the same Rule 25-1b that covers how players may take relief from abnormal ground conditions, but in this blog I want to highlight the fact that if you cannot find your ball that is lost in an abnormal ground condition, it is Rule 25-1c that sets out the procedure that the player must follow, without penalty. For a player to avail of this relief there must be no doubt that their ball did come to rest in the condition. This is the relevant paragraph;
If it is known or virtually certain that a ball that has not been found is in an abnormal ground condition, the player may take relief under this Rule. If he elects to do so, the spot where the ball last crossed the outermost limits of the abnormal ground condition must be determined and, for the purpose of applying this Rule, the ball is deemed to lie at this spot ...I previously blogged on the important subject of ‘Known or Virtually Certain’ at this link. To summarise, the possibility that the ball may be in an abnormal ground condition is not sufficient; there must be preponderance of evidence to that effect. Even when the weight of evidence suggests that a ball is lost in the condition, but there remains a possibility that it could have come to rest outside the defined area, the player should strengthen the evidence by searching for their ball for the permitted five minutes. In the absence of strong evidence that the ball is in the condition it must be treated as lost, and the player has to return to where they last played from under penalty of stroke and distance (Rule 27-1). There is no alternative if the player wishes to play out the hole, which is a mandatory requirement in a strokes competition, but not in a Stableford, Par or Bogey competition.
When it is known or virtually certain that a ball is lost in an abnormal ground condition, the reference point for taking relief is the spot where the ball last crossed the outermost limits of the abnormal ground condition. Having determined this point the player must then drop a ball in accordance with Rule 25-1c, which will depend on whether the reference point is through the green, in a bunker or on the putting green.
Obviously, the reason why free relief is available for balls that cannot be found in ground under repair, is that they are areas of temporary adverse course conditions defined by Committees (Rule 33-2a(iii)) and it would be unfair if a player had to take a penalty of stroke and distance because their ball was known to have come to rest in one. However, remember that the same relief applies to balls that are known or virtually certain to be in other abnormal ground conditions, including casual water, holes made by a burrowing animal and, where defined by a Local Rule, environmentally sensitive areas.
One last point, when a ball is found within an abnormal ground condition it is not mandatory to take relief, unless a Local Rule requires it. You will note in the excerpt from Rule 25-1c above that I have highlighted the words, “may take relief”; it does not say “must take relief”.
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