‘Preferred lies’ is the term that means that you as a golf player are allowed to clean your ball without penalty on certain parts of a golf course. It’s a local rule only and is also known as ‘winter rules’. It’s only in effect if you’re informed upon arrival at the golf course (usually on the board beside the Club Shop).
In a preferred lies situation you always mark your ball first. ‘Preferred lies’ means a golfer can lift up the ball (if he or she wants to), clean it and move its position, but not closer to the hole.
How to handle a preferred lie?
The position of the ball must be marked first. This can be done with a tee, a pitch fork, ball marker or a coin. Then you can lift the ball up and clean it if desired. The ball must then be (re)placed on a spot not nearer to the hole within the area specified e.g. within six inches. This distance is decided by the local committee. So it’s best to check it in advance, to avoid an unnecessary penalty of one stroke.
- Mark your ball first.
- Clean your ball.
- Replace the ball, no closer to the hole and within 6 inches of its original place (note that a €2 coin is approximately 1 inch in diameter).
- You cannot place the ball twice. The ball is in play as soon as it’s placed on the ground. If the player picks it up again and moves it, the player would incur a penalty stroke for ‘moving his/her ball in play’.
- Preferred Lies and other winter rules are not official Rules of Golf; instead, they are always a local rule.