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Preferred Lies


Wales Golf gives authority for preferred lies to be in operation between 1 October and 30 April.

The main purpose of Preferred Lies is to promote fair play when fairways are in an unsatisfactory condition due to lack of mowing and maintenance following adverse conditions, usually during the winter and usually as a result of heavy snows, thaws, prolonged rain or extreme heat. When these conditions are general throughout the course, and the Committee believes that “preferred lies” would promote fair play and protect the course, then the Local Rule under 15.3 below is recommended.

Temporary water and plugged balls, whilst most common during the preferred lies period, are not on their own a sufficient reason for the introduction of preferred lies. These issues can be addressed by following Rule 16 (Abnormal Course Conditions), Rule 16-3 (Embedded Ball) 

Outside of this period permission must be sort from Wales Golf for preferred lies to be used in qualifying competitions.

Note:  Preferred Lies cannot be given retrospectively.



The adoption of preferred lies, can allow Qualifying Competitions to be conducted under acceptableplaying conditions. Clubs should, whenever practicable, play competitions as Qualifying Competitions during the preferred lie period. Reference should be made to Decisions 1(a) and 1(b) that have been formulated to promote and encourage Qualifying Competitions in the preferred lie period. When the club determines that conditions warrant the implementation of preferred lies within the preferred lie period, refer to Model Local Rule E-3 of the Committee Procedures.

When such conditions are widespread on the course, the Committee can choose to adopt a Local Rule for “preferred lies” (also known as “winter rules”) to allow fair play or help protect the fairway. Such a Local Rule should be withdrawn as soon as conditions allow. The use of this Local Rule outside the fairway in the general area is not recommended as it may result in a player receiving free relief from areas where a ball might otherwise be unplayable (such as in areas of bushes or trees).

When preferred lies are in operation the following points shall be taken into consideration:
15.1 Each Union shall give directions to its Affiliated Clubs defining the period during which preferred lies may be used, if required. Competition Play Conditions will apply notwithstanding the application of a Local Rule for preferred lies as a result of adverse
conditions during this period (See Clause 15.3 below). The Local Rule may apply to specified holes only.

15.2 Outside the period specified in 15.1 Competition Play Conditions will only apply when preferred lies are in operation if the consent of the Union or Area Authority has been obtained. England and Ireland delegate the granting of consent for preferred lies outside the specified period to their Area Authorities. Scotland and Wales make no delegation under this clause.

15.3 It is emphasised that preferred lies must apply only when a Local Rule has been made and published in accordance with Model Local Rule E-3 of the Committee Procedures as follows: “When a player’s ball lies in a part of the general area cut to fairway height or less [or identify a specific area such as ‘on the fairway of the 6th hole’],the player may take free relief once by placing the original ball or another ball in and playing it from this relief area:

  • Reference Point: Spot of the original ball.
  • Size of Relief Area Measured from Reference Point: 6 inches from the reference point, but with these limits:
    • Limits on Location of Relief Area:
    • Must not be nearer the hole than the reference point, and
    • Must be in the general area.


In proceeding under this Local Rule, the player must choose a spot to place the ball and use the procedures for replacing a ball under Rules 14.2b(2) and 14.2e. Penalty for Playing Ball from a Wrong Place in Breach of Local Rule: General Penalty
Under Rule 14.7a. If a player incurs the general penalty for a breach of this Local Rule, no additional penalty
under the Local Rule is applied‘

Note: Competition Play Conditions will only apply when the specified area is within six inches (150 mm). See Clause 15.3

When a club considers that adverse conditions warrant an extension of the preferred lie period to all, or part, of the course, representations should be made by the Green Committee or other agreed body within the club to the Union / Area Authority (if delegated) they consider most appropriate. For the purpose of Qualifying Competitions the decision of that Union or Area Authority, if so delegated, should apply to all sections of the club thereafter. The provisions of Clause 15.3 apply. To ensure a consistent judgement in regard to extension of the preferred lie period it is desirable that an official of the appropriate Union or Area Authority should conduct an on-course inspection, where practicable, before authorisation is granted.

 Decisions relevant to Clause 15

1(a)    Status of a competition when the use of fairway mats is obligatory

1(b)    Status of a competition when artificially surfaced tees are in use

1(c)    Status of a competition when a local rule allowing relief from a plugged ball ‘through the green’ is in operation

1(d)    Status of a competition when competitors are required to lift a ball from the fairway and place in semi-rough.