Muddy golf ball

Winter Rules, or does it?

By Iain Fulton, PGA Teaching Professional, Belton Woods

Muddy golf ballWinter rules, also commonly referred to as preferred lies or ‘pick, clean and place’ is a local rule only and is generally put in place by a golf club committee due to adverse weather conditions which firstly effect the condition of the course and as a result, the fairness of play. Protection of the course itself is also a consideration.

Generally, on from November to the end of March, preferred lies can be put into operation at any time of the year

We are now going to look more closely at ‘winter rules’ and as we do the following definitions apply

Closely-mown area means any area of the course, including paths through the rough, cut to fairway height or less.

Through the green means the whole area of the course except for the teeing ground and putting green of the hole being played along with all hazards on the golf course.

Hazards – all bunkers and water hazards

When the local rule is being applied, the wording of the rule itself very important. Do not presume that preferred lies means the same at every golf course. The area in which the ball can be placed might vary at different courses with the distance the ball can be moved from where it originally lay differing from 6 inches up to a club length. Also, when extreme weather means a local rule is in place in the summer months, for example, preferred lies may only apply to certain holes or areas of the golf course.

MIZUNO BANNERWith this in mind, do not presume anything, please make sure you look for this rule on the clubs notice boards, ask about the rule in the golf shop or from the starter before you go out to play.

A local rule in these situations could read

A ball lying on a closely-mown area through the green (or a specified hole/area) may be lifted without penalty and cleaned. Before lifting the ball, the player must mark its position. Having lifted the ball, he must place it on a spot within (the specified area) of and not nearer the hole than where it originally lay, that is not in a hazard and not on a putting green.
Muddy pegged golf ballNow this seems straight forward enough but there are a few things to mention

1) A player may place his ball only once and it is in play when it has been placed. If the ball when placed comes to rest on the spot on which it is placed and it subsequently moves, there is no penalty and the ball must be played as it lies, unless the provisions of any other Rule apply

cleaned and placed golf ball2) If a ball when placed fails to come to rest on the spot on which it was placed, there is no penalty and the ball must be replaced. If it still fails to come to rest on that spot except in a hazard, it must be placed at the nearest spot where it can be placed at rest that is not nearer the hole and not in a hazard (rule 20-3d)

3) If the player fails to mark the position of the ball before lifting it, moves the ball-marker prior to putting the ball back into play or moves the ball in any other manner, such as rolling it with a club, he incurs a penalty of one stroke.

Match play – Loss of hole; Stroke play – Two strokes.

If you are falling foul of the rules, not using them to your advantage or struggling with any aspect of your game please contact Iain at or call 0800 2425002

Iain Fulton
PGA (AA) Teaching Professional
Belton Woods Hotel Golf & Spa
Mob: 07810486162
Work: 0800 2425002