PREFERRED LIES – WHAT’S FAIR?
The Rules of Golf rest on the fundamental principle of ‘playing the ball where it lies’.
However some golfers now feel they have an entitlement to a perfect lie. But it’s a fundamental principle that golfers have to accept good and bad lies as part of the game.
Prolonged wet conditions and a general lack of growth during some seasons can render a course less than satisfactory. To help promote fair play and protect the course, a committee can introduce Local Rules to counter these conditions.
Only when a committee has introduced a Local Rule for preferred lies, or winter rules, is a player entitled to prefer the lie of their ball.
Decision 33-8/34 of the Rules of Golf removed the authority for a committee to make a local rule “providing relief without penalty from a divot hole or a repaired divot hole (i.e. filled with sand or seed mix)”. Divot holes are not abnormal to a golf course and are considered part of the game.
There are other issues related to the ‘preferred lies’ strategy.
- Lower scores and consequently handicaps result.
- Golfers being are disadvantaged and less competitive when playing when they cannot improve the lie of the ball.
- Players may not understand the need to mark the ball before lifting or become confused about the allowable distance within which they must drop the ball.
- The marker of the player should be consulted before any relief is taken. Carrying out this consultation with virtually every stroke becomes impractical and time consuming.
On Thailand golf courses it is not unusual for there to be areas of the course, including on fairways where there is mud, particularly after heavy rainfall or even extensive hand watering.
When a ball has landed in, or rolled through, a muddy patch, mud may adhere to the ball and the next strokes affected. A Local Rule for cleaning the ball can then be useful. If there is such a Local Rule, the player is permitted to lift the ball, clean it and replace it on the exact spot where it originally lay.
The recommended wording for the Local Rule for preferred lies and/or cleaning the ball is contained in Appendix 1, Part B of the Rules of Golf.
Prior to completion a draft of this article was forwarded to SHONA McRAE, Assistant Director – Rules, the R&A, St Andrews, Fife, Scotland. She added this comment: “the key is to only introduce these Local Rules when the conditions merit it and not on a full-time basis.”