If you’ve ever watched golf on TV during or after a rain storm, or you’ve ever played golf on a soggy golf course, you may have heard the term “casual water.” You may have been confused by the term.
How can water be casual in nature? Is it relaxed or informal? As it turns out, the term “casual water” is rooted in the Rules of Golf, which defines what “casual water” is — now called “temporary water” — and what it means to a golfer.
What is casual water in golf?
The USGA defines “casual water” or “temporary water” as “any temporary accumulation of water on the course that is not in a water hazard and is visible before or after the player takes his or her stance.”
In other words, “casual water” is water on the golf course that isn’t meant to be there by design. Casual water can be anywhere on a golf course outside the water hazard, which is now called the “penalty area.” If there’s water somewhere in the “general area,” then it’s casual water or temporary water.
If your ball lies in casual water, you are allowed free relief.
Casual water doesn’t have to be liquid, by the way. Snow and naturally occurring ice can be considered either casual water or loose impediments, at the option of the player. In those situations, you can either move snow and ice away from your ball, or you can choose to take free relief from it.
Manufactured ice is considered an obstruction. Dew and frost are not considered casual water.
How do you determine if your ball is in or lying on top of casual water?
The easiest way to determine if your ball is in or lying on casual water is a two-part survey:
Is your ball in the general area?
If your ball is in the general area, is water visible on the surface of the ground underneath your ball before or after you take your stance? In other words, does water squish up to the surface when you put your feet on the ground around the ball?
If the answer is yes to both questions, then you can get relief from casual water.
How to take relief from casual water, including in a bunker
Taking relief from casual water is pretty easy. You can pick up your ball from the casual water, clean it, and then you can drop it at the nearest point without casual water that’s no nearer the hole. There is no penalty.
If a player finds their ball and stance in casual water in a bunker, there are two options. The player may drop the ball in the bunker at a point that provides maximum available relief (i.e., less water than the current position) without penalty. If that’s not good enough, a player can take a one-stroke penalty and drop the ball outside the bunker while going back as far as they want, keeping the point where the ball lay directly between the hole and where the ball is dropped.