I have a real problem spot in my garden. The water always collects near the drip line of my house and since my soil is basically heavy clay it never drains well. It's also an area of high traffic, so it always stays muddy.
I came up with a simple solution by using a French drain. Here's how I put it together.
First, I created a basin by digging a trench. The size of the trench was important because it determined the amount of water that could be drained or collected. I made this trench about 18 inches wide by 18 inches deep, then lined it with a nylon fabric and made sure to leave plenty of room for overlap on the sides. The nylon fabric is really great because it will not decompose underground and it will keep the soil from clogging the basin or section of drain.
Next, I put in about 2 inches of gravel in the bottom of the basin and then laid in a piece of plastic drain tile. The tile is about 4 inches in diameter and cut to fit the trench. This pipe collects most of the water and it is corrugated so it is very flexible and the holes allow the water to trickle in. You can pick it up at about any builders' supply store.
Finally, I covered the pipe with 2 or 3 inches of gravel and used the overlapping sides of the nylon fabric to seal it off. Then I simply filled in the trench with a lighter, sandier soil.
You can cover an area like this with turf or do like I did, and cover the area with large flat stones to create a path.