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What Does Preferred Lies Mean In Golf

what does preferred lies mean in golf
what does preferred lies mean in golf

Golf is a hard sport to begin with but throw in bad weather and it’s nearly impossible. But despite rain, harsh winds, and cold temperatures, people still show up to the golf course if it’s open.

Winter golf isn’t the most fun sometimes but it’s better than not playing golf. Plus, once you have the right gear, you can adapt and enjoy the day.

The Golf Gods reward those avid players with a local rule known as lift, clean, and place. These local rules help make the most of cold, wet, winter golf and make it easier to score well.

Keep reading to learn more about this local rule and other winter golf strategies for playing solid.

Lift, Clean, and Place in Golf 101 (Preferred Lie)

So, what does lift, clean, and place mean in golf?

Basically, exactly like it sounds. When the weather is less than ideal and the ball gets muddy due to wet fairways, sometimes “winter rules” aka preferred lies get implemented to promote fair play.

One of the main concepts of this local rule is to lift, clean, and place the golf ball. If this rule is implemented you can mark your ball then proceed to lift, and clean it. This will help you get rid of the mud, debris, and water off your ball.

The golf rules state that once cleaned, you can place (not drop) the ball near your mark as long as it’s not closer to the hole. This is a huge benefit as you can create a perfect lie and don’t have to drop it from knee height.

However, when placing the ball, you can’t move it from one type of turf conditions to another. For example, you can’t move the golf ball from the rough to the fairway, even if they’re damaged fairways.

Also, different courses might not get relief everywhere. Some courses play winter rules in the rough and fairway, while others require you to hit the fairway to take relief. This basically rewards hitting in the short stuff and penalizes you from hitting from the rough even more.

Adverse Conditions

While this local rule is primarily used in winter golf it can happen if the golf course is super dry from a very bad drought or have bare patches in the fairway. Some golf courses will allow you to take a club lengths preferred lie. This will ensure a good lie even if the course isn’t in perfect condition.

Playing in the Rain Tips

Playing in the rain is challenging, even if preferred lies is in effect. Some of my best tips are

  • Invest in rain gloves
  • Bring plenty of towels
  • Don’t forget to bring a golf umbrella
  • Wear the right gear including rain suits, jacket, and hat (don’t forget your rain hood too)

Also, this tip from Greg Norman should also help. “When the ball and turf are wet and the grooves of your irons are filled with water, don’t expect to put much backspin on the ball. You’ll get a semi-flyer shot, but you won’t get more distance than usual because the weight of the rain will cancel the spinless flight of the ball… t’s generally wise to take one club more than normal and make a controlled, balanced swing to guard against slippage.”

To learn more about playing golf in wet conditions, read “How to Play Golf in the Rain.”

FAQs About Winter Golf

Do you have more questions about this rule and playing your best in winter conditions? If so, keep reading to learn more.

Can you mark and clean your ball in the fairway?

Only if you’re playing winter rules. Otherwise, it is a penalty to lift and clean your ball from the fairway, rough, bunker, or any other situation other than taking a drop.

What does it mean to lift clean in golf?

This is in reference to preferred lies where players can mark, lift their ball, and clean it. Once clean they are allowed to place the ball close to the original spot for a good lie. This only applies when winter rules/preferred lies are in effect in fairway height or a closely mown area.

What does lift clean and place through the green mean?

This means you get relief throughout the hole, usually in tightly mown areas (fairways) only. Which means you can also get relief on the fringe too. This is a huge benefit as you can mark, clean, and line up your ball like a putt on the green.

Do pro golfers play preferred lies?

Yes, sometimes the tournament will enable this rule if conditions warrant it. While the PGA Tour normally plays in good weather, there are certain times of the year when Mother Nature prevails. Oftentimes the greenskeeping staff can make the course great in 24 hours or less, but still allow players preferred lies.

But it can change day to day based on the weather and golf course conditions. When they do enable this rule, it only applies to the fairway, not the rough.

Is preferred lies the same as lift clean and place?

Yes, the two golf terms mean the same thing.

Can you have preferred lies in the rough?

At your local golf club, this rule might be instituted. But for tournament play, it’s almost never allowed and incentives players to hit it in the short grass.

Can anyone lift your ball?

No, according to the USGA, “Your ball may be lifted under the Rules only by you or anyone you authorize, but you must give such authorization each time before your ball is lifted rather than giving it generally for the round.”

The only exception to this rule is a caddy who can lift your ball on the putting green without authorization after marking it.

Final Thoughts on Lift, Clean, and Place Rules

Before teeing off, make sure to double-check if the local rule is in effect to see if you can lift, clean, and place your golf ball. Also make sure to check if it’s in the fairway (closely mown area) and/or rough too. Otherwise, you can get penalized for breaking the lift clean and place rules.

Finally, don’t forget to mark your ball with a tee or divot tool before picking it up to clean off debris. Otherwise, you will receive a penalty stroke as well if you’re competing in a formal golf tournament.

Also, make sure to check out these articles to help you thrive in less than perfect weather.

  • 13 Tips for Cold Weather Golf
  • Cold Weather Golf Gear: Turn January to June