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