The R&A - Working for Golf

Local Rules for Winter Golf

For those of us who reside in the Northern Hemisphere, winter golf will soon be upon us. 

Not only is it time to look out your warmer clothing and winter mitts for a cold day on the links, it is also a time for some Local Rules to be introduced that will come into play.

Let’s recap on some of the most common:

Preferred Lies

The Rules of Golf provide the recommended wording for preferred lies.  When this Local Rule is in place, the ball may be lifted without penalty and cleaned before placing within a specified distance no closer to the hole. 

It is worth noting that before you lift the ball you must mark its position.  Once having marked its position you must not roll it with the club, otherwise it’s a one-stroke penalty, so make sure you place the ball. 

When placing the ball, you can only do this once…….so pick your spot wisely! If the ball doesn’t come to rest immediately Rule 20-3d applies and you can replace it.  This Local Rule is for closely mown areas only, i.e. when the ball lies on any area that is cut to fairway height.

Embedded Ball Through the Green

Courses can get muddy and wet over the winter period, which can result in balls plugging in their own pitch marks, including areas in the rough.  Under Rule 25-2, relief is available for a ball that is embedded in a closely-mown area. 

Luckily for some, the Committee also has the authority to implement another Local Rule under these conditions which would allow a player who had a plugged ball anywhere through the green to lift, clean and drop the ball as near as possible to where the ball originally lay.

Lift, Clean and Replace

This Local Rule is simple, it is very similar to the Preferred Lies Local Rule, but instead of placing your ball within a specified distance you must replace the ball on the same spot after marking, lifting and cleaning…..easy! Another good option for the Committee if the ball is picking up mud but the course conditions are relatively good.

Aeration Holes

Course maintenance is essential to a well-managed course.  There will be times of year when the greenkeeping team will need to create aeration holes, perhaps through the green or on the putting greens to ensure their condition is maintained.

The Committee can introduce a Local Rule for such times that this work is necessary.  Through the green if the ball comes to rest in or on an aeration hole it may be lifted and dropped as near as possible to the spot where it lay no nearer the hole.  Whereas on the putting green if interference exists, you may place the ball at the nearest spot, not nearer the hole, that avoids the aeration hole. 

Getting Frosty

Ever wondered what to do when it starts to snow, or perhaps there is a morning frost?  These occurrences are natural and the Rules make a distinction between natural snow or ice and manufactured ice which is more commonly found at the 19th hole in your beverage.  Manufactured ice is a movable obstruction under the Rules of Golf as it is man-made. 

However, frost, much like dew, it is not classed as a Loose Impediment so it cannot be removed.  Therefore, you are not allowed to brush it from your line of putt or in the area immediately to the side or behind the ball.  The exception to this is when you are on the teeing ground where dew, frost or water may be removed (Rule 13-2). 

Snow and natural ice are again different to water or frost.  They can be treated as either casual water or loose impediments at the option of the player.  So you can either take relief  under Rule 25-1 or remove them if they interfere with your stroke.  The choice is yours.