Sometimes you have to play when the weather is bad. Unfortunately, the USGA makes no specific provisions for “winter play,” as it’s called. There’s also nothing in the rules about the lift, clean, and place practice used on the PGA tour when it’s wet. Meanwhile, playing in bad weather adds strokes to scores and golf handicap, if you’re not careful. But you can save the strokes, if you know when and how to take appropriate relief.
The USGA prefers players play the ball as it lies. What’s more, most golf lessons or golf instruction sessions don’t cover winter play—leaving many players guessing what to do when they play in bad weather. Sometimes players make up their own rules to cover certain situations. That’s not appropriate. If you’re brave enough to play in bad weather, you should follow the rules as closely as possible. Here are some golf tips that may help you do that.
Check Out Local Rules
Appendix I of the USGA rulebook provides for local rules when playing in bad weather. Check them out. In fact, check out the local rules of any course you’re not familiar with. It’s good information to know before teeing off. Other than that, the key USGA rule concerning bad weather is Rule 25, which covers abnormal ground conditions.
You also need to read up on the procedures covering casual water—defined as an “accumulation of water on the course visible before or after a player takes his stance.” Simply put, if your ball lies in casual water or you must stand in casual water to play the ball, you get relief. The rule doesn’t apply to water hazards or later water hazards. But water that overflows beyond the hazard’s margin is considered casual water.
To take relief, determine the nearest point to your lie that allows for complete relief from the water, but not nearer the hole. Then drop the ball one club length from this spot. The club you use to measure should be the club you intend to use to play the next shot. Your drop may not be on the putting green or in a hazard. Also, you can clean your ball.
Abnormal Ground Conditions
Relief from abnormal ground conditions in a hazard or on the green is slightly different from that above. In a hazard you must take your drop within the hazard. You can drop outside the hazard, but it costs you a stroke. If a bunker is filled with water and the ball rolls into the water no matter where you drop it, you have two choices. After two drops, you can place it in the bunker outside the collected water, or you can take the penalty.
If there’s water on the green you may place the ball at the nearest relief point, even if it is off the putting surface. You can get relief from casual water that’s in the intended line of your putt, but you can’t mop up dew or water on the intended line of your putt. If you’re off the green and there’s casual water on your intended line, that’s tough luck. You can’t mop it up.
Rule on Embedded Balls
Another important rule to know is the embedded ball provision of Rule 25. It says that if the ball plugs in your own pitch mark, you can lift, clean, and drop it, but not if you’re in the rough. Also, you can’t have someone else protect your head while taking a shot. But you can hold an umbrella over your head and hit.
If you serious about cutting strokes from your golf handicap, you’ll keep these golf tips in mind next time you play in bad weather. They provide relief and can save strokes. Also, check the local rules. They can also provide relief as well.