Rules Column: Patti Daskalos

Rules of the Game:

Abnormal course conditions you might encounter in the NW

Pete has been waiting for the rain to let up so he can get in as many holes as possible before the rain starts again. The forecast shows a several hour break around Noon, so he grabs his clubs, calls Steve, and asks him to join him. Maybe they can get in at least nine!

They check in at the pro shop, where the head pro lets them know there may be some puddles on the greens. Both Pete and Steve know how to properly get relief from interference from an abnormal course condition (in this case, temporary water) on the putting green. Do you? 

First, lets define temporary water to ensure everyone is taking relief from the same condition: Temporary water is as an accumulation of water on the surface of the ground that:

    • Is not in a penalty area.

    • Can be seen before or after the player takes a stance.

Momentarily visible water when a player steps on the ground is not considered temporary water. Repeatedly pressing and stepping on the ground to create a puddle wouldn’t be considered temporary water either. Dancing in place only mucks up your shoes and doesn’t create a water situation in which you are entitled to relief. Also know that dew, frost, and manufactured ice are not considered temporary water (manufactured ice is an obstruction since it is man-made). When snow or natural ice are on the ground, you can decide if you want to deem the snow or natural ice to be loose impediments, or temporary water!

Consider the following scenario as Pete and Steve play their round. Pete hits his approach shot to the right of the hole and onto the green. Steve’s shot is also right, but barely misses the green and his ball sits on the fringe. When they arrive at the green, there is a large puddle between their golf balls and the hole. The puddle is temporary water, a type of abnormal course condition. Typically, a player would only get abnormal course condition relief if the player’s ball touches or is in the condition, or there is interference with the player’s stance, or intended swing. However, when a ball is on the putting green and an abnormal course condition on or off the putting green intervenes with the line of play, the player will be entitled to relief.

Pete has interference from the puddle on his line of play. Because Pete’s ball is on the putting green, he will take relief by finding the nearest point of complete relief, which can be either on the putting green or in the general area. Pete knows the nearest point of complete relief is the estimated spot nearest to the original spot of the ball, not closer to the hole, in the required area of the course (which again in this case is the putting green or general area), and where he has no interference from the puddle. Pete will place the ball or another ball on the nearest point of complete relief—and remember, the ball is placed even if your nearest point of complete relief is off the green and in the general area.

Now, Steve is not in the same situation as Pete because Steve’s ball is not on the putting surface. With Steve’s ball at rest on the fringe of the green, he is not entitled to line of play relief.  Steve would only be entitled to relief if the ball was in or touched the puddle, or he had interference by the puddle for his stance, or area of intended swing.  Steve is a little frustrated that even though his ball and Pete’s ball are only about 9 inches apart, Pete gets relief, and he doesn’t.  However, when Steve decides to chip the ball over the puddle and he holes it, the frustration ​disappears! 

Don’t let soggy conditions get in the way of your game by knowing your relief option for temporary water on the greens

Patti is a Rules Official with the Oregon Golf Association, Washington Junior Golf Association, NCAA, NAIA and the Junior World Championships. She can be reached at