A beginner's guide to golf: Understanding preferred lies

A beginner's guide to golf: Understanding preferred lies

Published on 31st May 2024

Whether you're a young aspiring golfer or a parent supporting your child's new hobby, there's a lot to learn in golf! One term you might come across is "preferred lies", sometimes referred to as "winter rules" or "lift, clean and place". It might sound a bit confusing at first, but we're here to help you understand what it means and why it's important.

What are preferred lies?

Put simply, preferred lies allow golfers to improve their ball's position on the course without getting a penalty.

Imagine you're on the course and ready to make your next shot, but the ground is wet and muddy. Your ball lands in a squishy patch of grass, making it hard to get a good hit. This is where the term "preferred lies" comes into play.

How do preferred lies work?

When the preferred lies rule is in effect, here's what you can do:

  1. Lift the ball: Pick up your ball from where it landed.
  2. Clean the ball: Wipe off any mud, grass, or dirt to ensure it's nice and clean.
  3. Place the ball: Put the ball back on the ground within a specified distance (usually six inches to one club length) from its original spot, but not closer to the hole. Always check with the event organiser, or your playing partner(s), to make sure your understanding of preferred lies is the same as theirs.

Why are preferred lies Used?

Preferred lies are typically used during times when the golf course is not in its best condition. This might be because of:

  • Wet or muddy conditions: After heavy rain, the ground can become very soft and muddy.
  • Maintenance work: Parts of the course may be undergoing repairs or maintenance.
  • Winter weather: Cold and wet weather can make the course less playable.

By allowing preferred lies, the game remains fair and enjoyable, even when the course conditions aren't perfect.

Tips for young golfers and parents

  1. Check the local rules: Always check the local rules at the golf course or during competitions. They will tell you if preferred lies are allowed and explain any specific guidelines.
  2. Practice respect and honesty: Golf is a game of honesty and integrity. When using preferred lies, make sure to follow the rules carefully and fairly.
  3. Enjoy the game: Remember, the goal is to have fun and enjoy the sport. Preferred lies help ensure that everyone can play their best, no matter the weather or course conditions.


Golf is a fantastic sport that teaches patience, precision, and sportsmanship. Understanding terms like "preferred lies" will help you navigate the game more confidently. So, next time you're out on the course and hear about preferred lies, you'll know exactly what to do.

Keep an eye out for more of our helpful 'A beginner's guide to golf' series of blogs!

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