Wednesday, 7 December 2011

Winter Rules / Preferred Lies

Photo by Ryan Pierse/Getty Images

There is much confusion over the subject of ‘Winter Rules’, or ‘Preferred Lies’, or as some critical golfers call it, ‘Lift, Clean and Cheat’. I think that the main reason for this is sloppiness by club or course Committees in properly wording the Local Rules that are required, and then failing to display the appropriate notice where it will be seen and taken note of by members. There must be very few courses that do not suffer from adverse conditions at certain times of the year, thereby justifying the introduction of temporary Local Rules, either to protect the course or to promote fair and pleasant play.

Committees should anticipate these occasions and have properly worded Local Rules prepared that spell out exactly what is, and what is not permitted. It is definitely not good enough to post a notice that says ‘Winter Rules’, 'Preferred Lies' or ‘Lift, Clean and Place Everywhere’. Wherever possible, it is recommended to reproduce one or more of the specimen Local Rules that are provided in Appendix l, Part B, section 4 of the Rules book. Amongst the subjects that should be considered are;
•    Whether lift, clean and drop is to be restricted to fairway areas, or is to include the rough (through the green).
•    Whether the ball must be marked before it is lifted (strongly recommended).
•    How far the player is allowed to place their ball from where they picked it up (e.g. the width of a score card, 6 inches, one club-length).
•    Whether there is relief for a ball embedded through the green (not just on closely mown areas).
•    The procedure to be followed if a player’s ball comes to rest on a temporary putting green.
•    If mats are in use on a teeing ground, whether the player must play from the mat, even if they are able to tee their ball within two club-lengths behind the tee markers without it being on the mat.
•    Confirming that the ball may only be placed once before it is in play.
•    Identifying general areas of ground under repair, such as cut turf seams, sand slits areas of drainage disruption and damage caused by heavy equipment.
•    Identifying dropping zones and when they may be used.

As I write this piece I am reminded of a situation I experienced some years ago when a fellow competitor, whose ball had embedded in the bank of a ditch inside the margin of a water hazard, started to prise it out. When I advised him that there was no relief for a ball embedded in a water hazard he abruptly replied that the notice in the pro-shop said, “Placing everywhere”!

Good golfing,

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Les Buckley said...

Hi Barry

Due to difficulty in determining the nearest point of relief for a ball travelling beyond the 18th green onto an alfresco area of the clobhouse, the following local rule was promulgated:
A ball lying on the clubhouse paving/concrete or garden beyond the 18th hole MUST be played within one club length from the drop stake located on the grass apron by the 1st Tee.

your thoughts please.
thanks Les

Barry Rhodes said...


Whilst I don't like the introduction of dropping zones, unless absolutely necessary, it does seem that one may be justified in the circumstance that you describe. However, in my opinion, the use of a dropping zone should be provided as an additional relief option to those available under the Rule itself, rather than being mandatory.


Anonymous said...

Hi Barry,

When preferred lies are in operation, for the sake of argument lets say within 6 inches, the player effectively has a 12 inch diameter semi circle in which to place their ball. My question is when a player marks his ball and then places it within this area, if the ball doesn't or won't stay on the spot he places it on and topples, but stays within this allowable area, is he allowed to (or indeed is he obliged to) try again on that spot ? Or does the fact that where the ball toppled to is still within his allowable area mean he's ok to play it as it is ? If he plays it from where it settles is he in breach ?

Cheers !

Barry Rhodes said...


Providing the Local Rule for Preferred Lies is correctly written, i.e. it follows the specimen wording in Appendix l, Part A, then the ball is in play as soon as it is at rest and the player has released their grip on it. For this reason the player should not completely release their grip on their ball until they are sure that it is at rest, i.e. that it is not going to settle further. The player is not permitted to place the ball again once it is in play, so if the ball moves subsequent to the player letting go of it, they must play it from where it settles.