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Winter Golf – Preferred Lies and related Rules

Wales Golf gives authority for

preferred lies to be in operation

between 1 October and 30 April.

This section contains guidance for clubs on the Local Rules and Procedures  that may be required, particularly during the winter months, to enable Acceptable Scores to be returned when course conditions are not ideal.

The use of preferred lies promotes fair play for players when fairway surfaces are patchy, wet without standing water, or muddy, whilst the use of fairway mats and artificially surfaced teeing areas helps to protect natural surfaces from damage or be rested.

Clubs are encouraged to use these provisions to enable players to return scores for competitions and for handicapping purposes, whenever practicable, during the Preferred Lie period. Each National Association in GB&I defines the preferred lie period for its jurisdiction, this being the months of the year during which clubs may implement Local Rules for the use of preferred lies and fairway mats without specific permission (subject to G-App H/1 and G-App H/2 below). Clubs which consider that such Local Rules are warranted outside of this preferred lie period must seek specific permission through Wales Golf.

GH/1 Preferred Lies

When a club determines that conditions warrant the implementation of preferred lies within the preferred lie period it must refer to the Rules of Golf Model Local Rule E-3 of the Committee Procedures.

Scores returned when preferred lies are in operation will be valid as Acceptable Scores only when a Local Rule has been made and published in accordance with Rules of Golf 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: In GB&I Acceptable Scores may be returned only when the specified area is within six inches (15cms).

Such a Local Rule may be applied to the course or to specific part(s) of the course and the Local Rule should be withdrawn as soon as conditions allow. The Local Rule should not be implemented or withdrawn once play has commenced on any given day as not all players would gain the same benefit from its use.

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). Scores returned under such a provision would not be Acceptable Scores for handicapping purposes.

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 Club to the Wales Golf in accordance with its guidelines.

GH/2 Local Rule Requiring Compulsory Use Of Fairway Mats

Acceptable Scores may be returned in Competitions and in General Play when there is a Local Rule requiring the compulsory use of fairway mats provided:

  • their use is restricted to the preferred lie period (period as directed by the National Association);
  • all other requirements for an Acceptable Score (Rule 2.1) have been satisfied;
  • a Local Rule for the use of fairway mats has been set out in the Terms of Competition;
  • the mat is not to be used for strokes made with a putter.

The suggested wording is:

“When a player’s ball lies in a part of the general area cut to fairway height or less and a putter is not being used for the stroke, the ball must be lifted, placed on and played from an Astroturf, or similar type of, mat. The mat must be placed as near as possible to where the ball originally lay, and the ball must be placed on the mat. The ball may be cleaned when lifted.

If a ball when placed rolls off the mat, the player must try to place it a second time. If the ball again does not stay on the mat, the mat must be moved to the nearest spot, not nearer the hole, where the ball will come to rest on the mat when placed. If the player accidentally causes the ball on the mat to move before a stroke is made, there is no penalty and the ball must be placed again on the mat.

If a tee is used to secure the mat into the ground, the ball must not be placed on the tee.”


GH/3 Artificially Surfaced Tees

Acceptable Scores may be returned when artificially surfaced tees are in use provided:

  • the artificial tees are located at positions that relate to a Measured Course or the altered course has been allocated a Course Rating and Slope by the National Association or Regional Association if so delegated; and
  • all other requirements for an Acceptable Score (Rule 2.1) have been satisfied.

Although artificially surfaced tees do not generally satisfy the two club-lengths in depth requirement in the Rules of Golf definition of a teeing ground, in such circumstances it is considered that the spirit of the Rule is being honored and that Acceptable Scores can be returned both in competitions and general play.

GH/4 Local Rule for Lift, Clean and Replace

Acceptable Scores are permitted when the Local Rule (Model Local Rule E2) allowing cleaning of the ball in the General Area is in place.


GH/5 Local Rule Requiring A Ball To Be Lifted From The Fairway And Dropped or Placed In The Semi-Rough

The introduction of a Local Rule permitting lifting the ball from the fairway and dropping or placing into the semi-rough (first cut), in order to protect the fairway, is not acceptable for handicap purposes. Such a procedure is not within the Rules of Golf. An alternative solution for fairway protection is required for an Acceptable Score such as the use of preferred lies or fairway mats.


Providing a Local Rule is in place, bunkers may be taken out of play and marked as GUR for situations such as severe or prolonged wet weather. Bunkers flooded with water, can be marked as GUR; allowing scores to still be acceptable and returned for handicap purposes. Players must be made aware of which bunkers are GUR before play. There is no limit on the number of bunkers that can be taken ‘out of play’, however clubs should not use this as an easy alternative. Every effort to keep bunkers in play should be made. 

If relief options remain within bunkers then clubs should endevour to keep them in play. Please see rule 16.1 (C) for relief option for abnormal course conditions in a bunker.  

Temporary Greens

For scores to be acceptable, no more than 2 temporary greens are allowed to be used. For a 9-hole course, only one temporary green will be allowed. Whilst temporary or alternative greens are acceptable for handicapping purposes, whenever the length of the course length has been increased or decreased by more than 100 yards for an 18-hole round or 50 yards for a 9-hole round, the adjustments to the Course Rating and Slope Rating set out in Appendix G of the Rules of Handicapping must be applied.