On a recent golf outing following some heavy rainy season weather with some friends, a lot of bunkers were filled with rainwater. One bunker, in particular, was half-filled with a puddle but the other half was mucky. My playing partner landed in the mucky part, and after failing to get out after two attempts tried to argue the point of 'Casual water should apply' and this 'Should have been staked'. After we refused his requests, he actually opted for an unplayable and moved the ball out from the bunker on the same line of entering, about 5 feet from the edge of the bunker, and took a 1 shot penalty. He wasn't a happy camper and was grumbling all the way home in fact. So what do the rules state?
Rules on water in a bunker:
When the bunker is filled with temporary water, you may play your ball as it lies or take free relief in the bunker. When taking free relief, you must find the nearest point of complete relief in the bunker and drop within the one club-length relief area (see Rule 16.1c(1)). If complete relief is not available, you may take free maximum available relief in the bunker and drop within the one club-length relief area from the point of maximum available relief (see Rule 16.1c(1)). Additionally, for one penalty stroke you may drop a ball outside the bunker by going back-on-the-line as far as you’d like keeping the point where your ball lies in the temporary water between you and the hole (see Rule 16.1c(2)).
On casual water:
Casual Water generally only applies to general areas like fairways and rough not penalty areas. Your ball is in what the Rules call “temporary water.” You may play your ball as it lies or take free relief. You take free relief by finding the nearest point of complete relief where you are clear of the puddle and then drop your original ball or another ball away from the puddle and within one club-length of that point, not nearer the hole (see Rule 16.1b). You may also take relief from a puddle of water if your ball is in a bunker or on the putting green (see Rule 16.1c for the bunker or Rule 16.1d for the putting green), but you do not get relief from a puddle inside a penalty area.
On ground under repair
You may either play your ball as it lies from the ground under repair or takes free relief. To take relief, you must find the nearest point of complete relief from the ground under repair and drop your original ball or another ball away from the ground under repair and within one club length of that point not nearer the hole (see Rule 16.1). If the bunker in question had of been clearly staked (grounds staff are draining or woking on the bunker) then 16.1 can be applied and one club length from the nearest point of relief could be applied.
On taking an unplayable:
If you don’t want to or decide you can’t play your ball as it lies when your ball is in a bunker, you may decide it is unplayable. If you do this, you have four total options, and two will always require that you take relief inside the bunker. You have three one penalty stroke relief options. (1) You may play a ball from the spot of your previous stroke (if this spot was out of the bunker, this option gets you out of the bunker; but if your last stroke was from in the bunker, you must stay in the bunker) (see Rule 19.2a). (2) You may take back-on-the-line relief in the bunker (see Rule 19.2b). (3) You may drop in the bunker within two club-lengths of where your ball lies but not nearer to the hole (see Rule 19.2c). (4) Your fourth relief option comes with two penalty strokes – you may get out of the bunker using the back-on-the-line relief option (see Rule 19.3b).
Got it? Good!