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preferred lies relief

Golfers rejoice! Winter rules are back

It’s been getting a bit slippy underfoot as autumn takes hold. But preferred lies have now returned. We look at that Local Rule and others that could come into play over the next few months

 

October is a landmark time for golfers. It brings the return of preferred lies – the first sign the summer season is coming to an end and we’re heading into winter golf.

From the start of this month until April 30 next year, the Model Local Rule in the Rules of Golf that allows you to lift, clean and replace your ball is authorised for use.

You can take relief ONCE by placing your original ball, or another ball, and then playing it from a relief area.

For a score to be acceptable for World Handicap System purposes, the size of that relief area has to be no more than six inches from the reference point, which is the spot of the original ball, and the preferred lie can only be on closely mown areas (fairways and fringes).

Of course, you can’t place the ball nearer to the hole than that reference point and it must be in the general area.

Another Local Rule, for marking, lifting, cleaning and replacing on the same spot can be used anywhere in the general area. But it’s recommended that this is limited to specific areas where extreme conditions would make it difficult even using existing relief options under the rules.

What else can we expect from winter golf aside from preferred lies golf rules? England Golf have issued a revised winter checklist for golf clubs so let’s delve deeper into the document…

Preferred lies golf – and other golf winter rules you need to know

preferred lies golf relief

You can still return scores for handicapping purposes

There is no such thing as a winter handicap anymore. Your WHS index runs all year round. England Golf encourages players to return scores as “WHS does not have an off season in GB&I”.

If your club has a rated winter course then crack on. For those using their regular layouts, the Rules of Handicapping state that the front of the teeing area must not be  +/- 10 yards from the fixed measurement point on each tee and the overall length of the course can’t be +/- 100 yards from its measured length.

There is a 300 yard rule “for situations where there is a necessary shortening or lengthening of one or more holes by a total of more than 100 yards, but less than 300 yards”.

This is aimed at holes that have been affected by drainage, course excavation, or other such winter work. But to put in scores, your club would need to submit a temporary rating to England Golf and have that approved.

fairway mats

Mats – on tees and fairways!

Tee mats are common when the weather turns, while some clubs will ask you to use a mat on fairways and closely mown areas through the winter.

If there is a Local Rule that enforces it while the preferred lies period is in place, you can still return acceptable scores for WHS in both competitions and general play.

Your club can stop you submitting general play scores

Clubs can switch on and off available tee sets and when they activate ‘off’ that will stop scores being submitted for general play when using the MyEG app.

The annual WHS review

Who doesn’t love the annual WHS handicap index review? OK most of us won’t notice any difference but the process needs to be completed between October 1 and the end of December.

If you get an adjustment – whether that’s up or down – your committee must tell you about it in writing and you will have the chance to appeal it.

Rules of Golf

What about when bunkers are GUR?

Winter is construction time. Your greenkeeping teams will be hard at work and some of your club’s bunkers may be taken out of play. Or perhaps the wet weather has flooded them. Can you still put in a score for handicap?

You can. Bunkers need to be individually marked as GUR, though. “In situations where there are multiple bunkers that need to be designated GUR, it is acceptable to define them along the lines of ‘all greenside bunkers on Hole 4’ (or ‘all bunkers on Hole 4’); via a notice to players and without having to place GUR signs in all bunkers”, says the EG checklist.

Did you know that there is no limit on the number of bunkers that can be out of play for scores still to count for WHS?

How many temporary greens can be in play?

If you want to put in a score, no more than two temps are allowed. If your course is a 9-holer, then it is one. Temporary greens can also alter the yardage and when that passes the 100-yard threshold (50 for 9-holes), your club would need to apply course rating and slope adjustments and get those approved from their county.

What about if a hole is closed?

Your score can still count for handicap – with WHS software working out and giving you an “adjusted gross score” for the hole you didn’t play.

What do you think about these winter golf rules? Are you glad preferred lies are back? Did you know the rule about temporary greens? Let me know by leaving a comment on X.

Steve Carroll

Steve Carroll

A journalist for 25 years, Steve has been immersed in club golf for almost as long. A former club captain, he has passed the Level 3 Rules of Golf exam with distinction having attended the R&A's prestigious Tournament Administrators and Referees Seminar.

Steve has officiated at a host of high-profile tournaments, including Open Regional Qualifying, PGA Fourball Championship, English Men's Senior Amateur, and the North of England Amateur Championship. In 2023, he made his international debut as part of the team that refereed England vs Switzerland U16 girls.

A part of NCG's Top 100s panel, Steve has a particular love of links golf and is frantically trying to restore his single-figure handicap. He currently floats at around 11.

Steve plays at Close House, in Newcastle, and York GC, where he is a member of the club's matches and competitions committee and referees the annual 36-hole scratch York Rose Bowl.

Having studied history at Newcastle University, he became a journalist having passed his NTCJ exams at Darlington College of Technology.

What's in Steve's bag: TaylorMade Stealth 2 driver, 3-wood, and hybrids; TaylorMade Stealth 2 irons; TaylorMade Hi-Toe, Ping ChipR, Sik Putter.

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