Get it right on the course more of­ten with our monthly R&A mas­ter­class

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hona McRae, R&A as­sis­tant di­rec­tor – Rules, looks into the sea­sonal is­sue of pre­ferred lies, which were also in op­er­a­tion dur­ing Hideki Mat­suyama’s im­pres­sive vic­tory in the WGC-HSBC Cham­pi­ons in Shang­hai.

Due to a very long hot sum­mer and a very long wet au­tumn, course con­di­tions mer­ited the pre­ferred lies Lo­cal Rule for the du­ra­tion of the cham­pi­onship, but the HSBC Cham­pi­ons was not the only 2016 event to in­tro­duce ‘pre­ferred lies’. This Lo­cal Rule was also in ef­fect for the final round of the PGA Cham­pi­onship for the first time in its his­tory, af­ter Bal­tus­rol re­ceived a lot of rain overnight.

With win­ter upon us, it is com­mon to in­tro­duce this Lo­cal Rule to cope with the con­di­tions as pre­ferred lies help to pro­mote fair play and pro­tect the course.

SHow­ever, sim­ply say­ing “pre­ferred lies in op­er­a­tion” is not enough as it doesn’t ex­plain what the player can do. Un­der the word­ing of The R&A’s rec­om­mended Lo­cal Rule (Ap­pen­dix A, 3b in the Rules of Golf), a player is en­ti­tled to pre­fer the lie of the ball when the ball lies on a closely mown area through the green, such as the fair­way. A closely mown area is any area of the course that is cut to fair­way height or less and in­cludes paths cut through the rough and the fringe/apron around the green. The closely mown area can be on any hole, not just the one you are play­ing, but if your ball does not lie on a closely mown area, you can­not pre­fer your lie.

When pre­fer­ring the lie of your ball, you must first mark its po­si­tion, typ­i­cally us­ing a tee, but a coin or other sim­i­lar small ob­ject is also fine. Once the ball has been marked, you may lift it and clean it. The ball must then be placed on a spot no nearer the hole within the area spec­i­fied by the Com­mit­tee in charge of the com­pe­ti­tion. This spec­i­fied area can vary – most com­monly six inches, but some­times a score­card-length or even one club-length, as was the case at the HSBC Cham­pi­ons.

If you fail to mark the po­si­tion of the ball be­fore lift­ing it or move the ball in any other man­ner, you will in­cur a one-stroke penalty. You are also only en­ti­tled to pre­fer the lie once, so choose your spot care­fully. If you pick it up again and move it, you in­cur a penalty stroke for mov­ing your ball in play (Rule 18-2).

And al­ways check to see if the Lo­cal Rule is still in ef­fect be­fore you play – some­thing Danny Lee for­got to do dur­ing the 2015 John Deere Clas­sic, where he picked up his ball in the mid­dle of the fair­way, for­get­ting that pre­ferred lies were no longer in op­er­a­tion.

The ball must be marked and placed no nearer the hole within the area spec­i­fied

Check to see if the Local Rule is in ef­fect The ball must be on a closely mown area Mark the ball be­fore lift­ing it Place the ball within the re­quired dis­tance Only place the ball once

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