The British weather can never be relied on when it comes to golf. Summer or winter, the threat of showers is never far away and most games wouldn’t even get off the ground if we relied solely on the weather forecast. So what are the winter rules of golf?
However, thanks to considerable investment in course maintenance and expert green care, many clubs are now offering quality golf irrespective of the weather. Along with better fairways and putting surfaces, recreational golfers can also make use of a practice known as ‘winter rules’ or ‘preferred lies’ which ensures a game of golf in harsh conditions needn’t be a disaster in terms of the score sheet.
That said, winter rules create significant confusion among golfers and are quite often interpreted differently, depending on who is playing. This is especially true if a golf club doesn’t specify the winter rules in operation.
So what are winter golf rules?
Winter golf rules are declared by a course, golf club or competition committee and allow players to improve their lies in areas of the course negatively affected by harsh weather conditions without penalty.
This basically means that the player can move the golf ball to another area to improve its lie (although this usually only applies within the fairway).
When winter rules are in operation, a golf club will display a sign stating this to be the case. Winter rules are not something that players can decide for themselves, regardless of the condition of the weather or its impact on the course.
Unfortunately, winter golfing rules can be a cue for the recreational golfer to begin applying their own rules to the course, including changing their lie positions in bunkers and water hazards and other areas of the course!
This is especially true if the club has implemented winter golfing rules without further explanation. And in any case, few golfers know exactly what it means as winter rules are merely an appendix to the official 34 rules of golf.
The most common tradition for the adoption of preferred lies is to give the golfer the right to lift, clean and move a ball which lands in a bare patch of dirt up to six inches in any direction to improve the lie – without penalty.
If you carry a handicap, any round played abiding by winter rules must still be reported for handicap purposes.
It’s important to remember that just because winter rules are in effect at a golf course this doesn’t mean you have to employ them. You are still entitled to take the ‘play as it lies’ approach.
Something else worth remembering is that winter golf rules are not exclusively applied in winter. A golf club or competition committee may also implement them during periods of significant drought in summer as a result of bald and patchy fairways.
I hope this article has clarified the use of winter golf rules for anyone not familiar with the practice. If in doubt, ask club officials who will be able to assist further with the precise detail of the rules.
Below is Kevin Smith, a Director here sharing the winter rules here at Warley Park Golf Club. Winter rules vary from pick, wipe and play to no buggies:
If you would like to check what winter rules we have in place here at Warley Park before coming along to play a round of golf then please call us on 01277 224891.