RULE: Preferred Lie

 Tricky - this is not a Rule of Golf, but a model Local Rule as approved by the R&A and USGA, and adopted as needed by the Committee at NGC!

When wet weather changes our playing conditions, I guess we will be experiencing the playing of golf with the local rule “preferred lie”. Temporary water, muddy patches, unmown areas, mud on your ball etc – this rule is necessary to take account of the abnormal playing conditions and make the game not only fairer, but somewhat more enjoyable. When such conditions are so general throughout the course, preferred lie is not only fairer but may also protect the course. How much do you know about using preferred lie? Do you know the answers to these questions?

How far can I 'legally' move my ball when preferred lie applies?
What if I place the ball, and then see a better spot?
What if the ball won’t stay where I am trying to place it?
What if it moves after I have placed it?
Which “length” of the card do I use?
May I take preferred lie on the green
Can I clean my ball when I lift it for preferred lie?
 

I know our Local Rule Board usually says – preferred lie in the general area – one card length. But it is more specific than this in reality – see bold clues below.

“A ball lying in the general area may be lifted, without penalty, and cleaned. Having lifted the ball, you must place it on a spot within one card length of and not nearer the hole than where it originally lay, that is not in a penalty area and not on a putting green

The photo below illustrates where you may place the ball if preferred lie is invoked as a local rule at Nambour.

There are more conditions!! Other Rules of golf apply when you chose to prefer a lie.

So you move your ball to a lovely lie on a tuft, reach into your bag for your club, and find your ball has rolled from the tuft and now sits in a hole in front of a weed. Ohh - bad luck! You have to now play it from there! 

However, if you have been deemed to have caused the ball to move, then rule 9– 4b says you incur a penalty of one stroke. You are deemed to have caused it to move if you or your equipment moves it, the ball moves when you remove a loose impediment or the ball moves after you have addressed it.

It is recommended that you mark the position of your ball before you lift it. If you move the ball in any other manner (eg drag the ball with your club, kick it with your feet, etc) you will incur a one stroke penalty.

So when the Local Rule board says “preferred lie”, choose your spot carefully when taking preferred lie! You may need to take care and place your ball firmly on a grass tuft, so grounding your club does not cause the ball to move1

Finally… what is a card length? Is it the long side of your card folded, or is it the long side of the open card?

(For our NGC card, the difference is 6 cm, or just over two inches). To be generous, the match committee deems your card to be open, so 21 cm. (How many inches is that??)

Now look at this photo—I hate putting a ball which lies on the green tight against the mowing ridge—so when preferred lie applies, can I move the ball from the green onto the fringe where it is easier??

Bad luck—the preferred lie local rule applies “in the general area” only. Definitions tell us that this ruling does not include the ball in bunkers or penalty areas, nor on the teeing ground or the green of the hole being played. Play it as it lies!

What about the other way—the ball lies on the fringe. If preferred lie is in play, can I move the ball onto the green, no nearer the hole?

No—read the local rule again—you can place the ball on a spot which is “not on a putting green”.

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