These things have perfectly good grass in them. The grass is cut to the same length and there is no stones under the grass. There is no mention of them on the score card. I think my friend has it wrong. Thanks for the replies.
You can't just make up whatever Local Rules you want. They're not allowed under the Rules of Golf.
So, I'm asking you to do a little work instead of just guessing at what may be possible here. This is the Rules of Golf forum. Let's post knowledgeable answers, not "my guess is…" answers.
So, what local rule or regular rule do you think might allow relief from a drainage "depression"? Particularly given that a "drainage ditch" is included in the definition for "penalty area."
Does a drainage ditch meet any of these for an ACC?
Abnormal Course Condition
Any of these four defined conditions:
Ground Under Repair,
Immovable Obstruction, or
It also doesn't sound like Model Local Rule F-20 applies:
Model Local Rule F-20
“Drainage channels that are made of artificial materials and run next to cart paths are treated as immovable obstructions in the general area and are part of the cart path. A player may take free relief under Rule 16.1b.
This sounds like a French drain. If the rocks that are part of its construction are visible (meaning the sod on top of it is gone), it is a free drop as a man made object, just like a cart path. If there is grass on top, even though it's a visible depression, I don't think it can be a free drop, unless the course has a local rule allowing that.
You said "Local rules can't be whatever you want them to be". I'm not following you...
If you are referring to the very first post in this thread then I am in agreement. The friend can't just make up his own rules.