What Do Preferred Lies Mean in Golf

Golf is a complicated sport, and there are countless phrases and lingo involved. So, it should come to no surprise that there is even a special phrase made up by winter golf enthusiasts. Keep reading to find out what do preferred lies mean in golf and how you can use them to your advantage, no matter if you’re a beginner or professional.

Preferred lies are a rule in golf used in bad weather conditions, usually during winter, that allows you to move the ball into a more comfortable lie when it lands on an unflattering patch of grass. It’s also known as the “lift, clean, and place” method, preferring a lie, and winter rules.

A golf course in cold weather
Preferred lies are used by golfers playing in harsh weather conditions

What Is the Lift, Clean, and Place Method?

Preferred lies, also known as the lift, clean, and place method, as well as winter rules, is a very well-known rule in golf that allows you to move the golf ball from a less-than-desirable position in bad weather conditions to another spot where you can have a more successful swing. This method is extremely useful for those situations where your golf ball ends up in mud, snow, icy turf, or other unflattering positions due to difficult, cold weather conditions. Here are all the rules you need to be aware of if you want to implement this method:

  • Before you move the ball, you have to mark the original spot with a ball marker,
  • You can not kick the ball, move it with your foot, or push it to another position – you must lift it with your hands,
  • After you lift it, you can clean it,
  • The ball must be carefully placed on the ground, you can not drop it or toss it,
  • You can move the ball in any direction but never closer to the hole,
  • The ball can only be moved a certain length,
  • The ball can only be relocated if its original spot is in a closely mown area, and it can only be moved to a spot that is also within a closely mown area.

How Far Can You Move the Golf Ball from Its Original Position?

Different golf courses and players set different rules when it comes to how far the ball can be moved. That’s why it’s so important to get detailed information before the game begins. Once you establish if the rule is even allowed, make sure everyone is on the same page about how far the ball can be repositioned.

A general rule to follow is that the ball can only be moved up to 6 inches, but there are various other rules that can be followed. Some players use their golf clubs as a measurement, where the ball can’t be moved further than the length of their club. No matter how far you choose to move it, just remember that you can never move the ball closer to the hole.

Golf ball in the grass
You can only move the ball that’s on a closely mown area

When Can Preferred Lies Be Used?

The most important thing to remember when it comes to the lift, clean, and place method is that it can only be used during the winter, when weather conditions affect the field and the overall game. That is why preferred lies are also known as winter rules. This rule simply doesn’t exist during summertime and other times of the year, and that’s the most important thing to remember when it comes to this method.

Another thing worth noting is that not all fields and golfers accept this rule as it is, so it can’t be used on every golf course. If the use of preferred lies is allowed, you will be notified before the start of the game. If you’re unsure, you can always ask around but never do it without getting permission beforehand.

Who Can Use Preferred Lies?

Preferred lies are not a rule that’s tied to a specific skill set – anyone can use it, no matter if they are a beginner or a professional golf player. However, it is usually used by more experienced golfers, as beginners tend to focus on other, more basic rules and techniques. 

Do You Have to Know and Follow This Rule If You Want to Be a Great Player?

There are many rules in golf, and preferred lies are one of the most important and famous ones. All great players have heard of it, and most of them have also used it in their games, but it doesn’t mean you have to implement it at all costs.

If you’re not someone that will play golf during winter and bad weather conditions, or you’re a beginner, you can do some research simply to broaden your knowledge about the sport, but you don’t have to learn this technique if you won’t be using it. As with everything else, the more you know – the better, but it would be smarter to focus on other techniques and rules you will certainly need all year round, as preferred lies are only a seasonal rule.

A golf ball in tall grass
This rule can be useful in the winter, but it’s not crucial for a good game 

Now That You Know What Do Preferred Lies Mean in Golf, Bad Weather Can’t Stop You From Having a Good Game

True golf lovers never shy away from a good game, not even in bad weather conditions during winter. Now that you’ve mastered the lift, clean, and place method, you can enjoy your favorite activity all year long, with the best possible ball placements, and not even snow or mud will stand in your way.

Just remember the basic rules – you can’t move the ball any closer to the hole, you have to mark the spot before moving, you can move it up to 6 inches, and most importantly – make sure preferred lies are even allowed on your golf course, otherwise all you will achieve is a significant penalty.