Originally Posted by Dormie1360
I also asked about whether the depth of the ball in the ground could be a factor as far as not allowing the relief because it would be unreasonable for the player to play the stroke. On this point the opinions were less definite. I think they would rule based on the facts at the time.
This is the interesting question to me, and it would be interesting to see a decision at some point clarifying this. To me, if the ball is 4 inches deep, that sounds to me clearly unplayable, in which case no free relief would be allowed even if it is in casual water. Ruling 25-3 doesn't even address this, it only answers whether a ball is in casual water or not; whether relief was allowed is a separate question dependent on the specific condition the ball was in.
To me, it would likely still be practical to make a stroke if the ball is dug in only an inch or two, in which case some part of the ball would be either above the ground or at least very close to the surface. And if the ground is very soft, like sand, maybe even deeper. But 4 inches into heavey mud? The ball itself is under 2 inches in diameter. So we are talking about the top of the ball being more than a golf ball deep. Is anyone arguing this ball was playable?
If it's not playable, I think this is similar to ruling 24-2b/16:
Q.A player's ball lies between two exposed tree roots. The ball is clearly unplayable due to the roots. An immovable obstruction is so located that it would interfere with the player's backswing if the player could play the ball. The player claims he is entitled to relief, without penalty, under Rule 24-2b(i). Is the player correct?
A.No. See Exception under Rule 24-2b. The player must invoke Rule 28.
Also of interest is 24-2b/19:
Q.A player's ball lies against an immovable obstruction in casual water. It is clearly impracticable for him to make a stroke because of interference by either of them. The Exceptions to Rule 24-2b and Rule 25-1b appear to preclude free relief from either because of interference by the other. Is this correct?
A.No. The player may take relief without penalty under either Rule 24-2b or Rule 25-1b. The purpose of the Exception to each of these Rules is to prevent the player from fortuitously obtaining free relief when it is clearly impracticable for him to make a stroke because of interference by something from which free relief is not available.
This maybe isn't directly applicable, but what is interesting is the reasoning. The literal language of the rules appears to say one thing, but that interpretation is rejected because of the intent of these rules is "to prevent the player from fortuitously obtaining free relief when it is clearly impracticable for him to make a stroke because of interference by something from which free relief is not available." I think similar logic would apply to any unplayable ball for which free relief is sought from an abnormal ground condition.
Absent a ruling specifically addressing this though, I think it would be difficult to enforce. Just as it is up to the players own consciense to decide whether he has reason to check whether the ball might be in casual water, it is really entirely up to the player's own conscience to determine whether the ball is unplayable. Rule 28 says specifically:
The player is the sole judge as to whether his ball is unplayable.
So in this situation I think you would be right to say that relief from casual water is not available if the ball is clearly unplayable. I think a ground condition apart from an abnormal ground condition can clearly still cause a ball to be unplayable, and the exception to 25-1 applies to "anything other than an abnormal ground condition"; so I would reject the argument that the ground doesn't count, as the ground is still something. But if the player asserts that the ball is playable, that's his call, and you would really have no argument, absent a decision which specifically says otherwise about this type of ball.