By Richard Todd
Heavy rains interrupted the third round of the BMW championship. Morning tee times were pushed back until afternoon, groups were reorganized into threesomes, and the preferred lies rule was put into place.
This little used rule allows players to lift their golf ball, clean it, and place it near as possible to the original spot, outside of the poor lie, and no closer to the hole. The area for the ball to be placed is decided by the local course committee (example: six inches). This is often referred to as the ‘Lift, Clean, Place’ option.
If a player’s ball lies on a closely-mown area through the green the player may mark, lift, and clean his ball without penalty.
Before lifting, the position of the ball must be marked by the player. The definition of ‘closely-mown area’ is any area of the course, including paths through the rough, cut to fairway height or less.
Note: This refers to ‘closely mown’ areas only. It does not apply to the rough, hazards or another fairway to which your ball may have strayed.
Golfers that use their club to roll the ball into the new lie, rather than placing it, should add a one stroke penalty for breach of the rule.
There is a debate if enacting this rule conflicts with the golfing ethos of ‘play the ball as it lies’. Even the USGA and R&A did not support this local rule until 2004. Regardless of your view, there are sound reasons for playing under this option.
Some incorrectly think this rule was created for the player – to increase playability and lower scores.
The real reason for this option is to protect the course from further damage due to environmental conditions, such as soft, or overly wet turf.
Similar weather situations can happen at your local course, as they did on the PGA Tour. Following this rule helps to maintain the playability of the fairway. Always check with your starter for special instructions, before starting your round.
How does this relate to posting scores for your handicap? It doesn’t change anything. You can still post your score, using preferred lies, as you would for any other round.
Note: The course committee can suspend score postings for handicap calculations if conditions warrant.
If you have any questions concerning “Preferred Lies,” contact Richard at: Richard@TheGolfRules.com.