How to ‘Place’ correctly under Winter Rules

‘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.

Important notes:

  • 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, therefore check the relevant noticeboards before play.

4 comments on “How to ‘Place’ correctly under Winter RulesAdd yours →

    1. Hi Patrick,
      Currently the player would incur a 1-shot penalty.
      As per R&A “If the player fails to mark the position of the ball before lifting it or moves the ball in any other manner, such as rolling it with the club, the player incurs a penalty of one stroke.” – more details here
      In 2019 the player is not required to mark the ball – “When a ball is lifted to take relief under a Rule, the player is not required to mark the spot before lifting the ball.” – more details here
      I hope this helps

  1. I am glad the rule is changing because many players ignore the marking the ball first rule in my experience. Many thanks for the quick response.

  2. The 14.1a Rule is certainly inspired by the need of speeding the game and thought previewing to take relief by dropping a ball: obviusly the Relief Area is summarily identified and the spot where the ball falling down from knee heght will stop is roughly predictable, so that the original lie of the ball has little importance.
    But when the Winter Rules allow to forget the Rule 1 (Play the Ball as It Lies), and allow to lift and clean the ball, and then replace it on a spot not nearer to the hole within six inches (with larger areas the problem is smaller), if the original lie has not been marked, the placement will be inevitably – accidentaly or voluntarily – imprecise, and it will be easy to choose a lie within a lot more then six inches.
    So, I hope in a revision of the Preferred Lies Rule, requiring to mark the ball.
    Enrico Cascella

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