The purpose of this article is to review the relief options that are available to you when you find your ball in, on, or near a pile of ice that has been accidentally spilled on the course by someone, such as a maintenance worker, a spectator, or even another player. We all know that ice is frozen water, but what exactly are ice cubes under the Rules? It may surprise you to know that the Rules treat natural ice and man-made ice quite differently! According to the Definitions of “Casual Water” and “Loose Impediments,” natural ice is either casual water or loose impediments at the option of the player. On the other hand, manufactured, i.e., man-made, ice is an obstruction per the Definition of “Obstructions”! Since ice cubes may be moved without unreasonable effort, without unduly delaying play and without causing damage, they are movable obstructions. See Definition of “Obstructions.” Accordingly, the applicable Rule concerning ice cubes is Rule 24-1 [Movable Obstruction]. If you were to substitute the words “ice cubes” for “movable obstruction” in Rule 24-1, this Rule would read as follows: A player may take relief, without penalty, from ice cubes as follows:
- If the ball does not lie in or on the ice cubes, the ice cubes may be removed. If the ball moves, it must be replaced and there is no penalty, provided that the movement of the ball is directly attributable to the removal of the ice cubes. Otherwise, Rule 18-2 applies.
- If the ball lies in or on the ice cubes, the ball may be lifted and the ice cubes removed. The ball must through the green or in a hazard be dropped, or on a putting green be placed, as near as possible to the spot directly under the place where the ball lay in or on the ice cubes, but not nearer the hole.
That all seems fairly straight-forward, but what are you supposed to do when you are confronted by the puddle of water that resulted from the partial melting of the ice cubes prior to their removal? Carefully note the Definition of “Casual Water” which states, in part, ““Casual water” is any temporary accumulation of water on the course that is not in a hazard and is visible before or after the player takes his stance.” [Emphasis added]. Therefore, if such a puddle (on the course, but not in a water hazard) interferes with the lie of your ball, your stance, or the area of your intended swing, then you are entitled to take relief from the puddle pursuant to Rule 25-1 [Abnormal Ground Conditions]. Just remember that you are not permitted to mop up that puddle of water unless it happens to be situated within the teeing ground. See Rule 13-2 [Improving Lie, Area of Intended Stance or Swing, or Line of Play] and Decision 16-1a/1 [Brushing Aside or Mopping Up Casual Water on Line of Putt]. If the puddle of casual water is on the putting green and it intervenes on your line of putt, then you would be entitled to intervention relief because both your ball and the intervening puddle are on the putting green. When your ball is not on the putting green, there is no intervention relief for a puddle of casual water, even if the puddle is on the putting green. See Rule 25-1a [Abnormal Ground Conditions: Interference] and Decision 25-1a/2 [Casual Water on Putting Green Intervenes Between Ball Off Green and Hole] which confirms that Rule 13-2 prohibits the player from removing casual water from his line of play.