Golf Talk With Greg Holman – #10

Click play to listen to Greg’s Podcast, or read below.

If you’re an avid golfer no doubt you’re familiar with the term “winter rules.” They allow the golfer to improve their lie when the course is in less than ideal shape. While I’m an advocate of playing according to the actual rules of golf, I would encourage you to play winter rules this time of year.

As we talked about last week the weather’s enough of a penalty, why not go ahead and get some enjoyment out of the game on a soggy cold and windy day? By the letter of the law in accordance with appendix one of the rules of golf, winter rules would allow you to lift, clean, and place your ball within 6 inches of where it came to rest, but only in the fairway. Depending on the shape of the course you’re playing the local rule, or the rule agreed upon by your foursome could be expanded. I’ve played municipal golf courses that would barely pass as a golf course, and it might even say on the score card to play winter rules year round, even in the rough.

Typically in scramble tournaments even in the summer winter rules or preferred lie’s are observed. Depending on the venue some of the expressions used might include: improve your lie 6 inches tee to green, no closer to the hole, or, improve your lie 12 inches, or, play your ball up within a score card distance, or, the most relaxed rule of all, improve your lie up to a clubs length.

Now the only problem I have with playing the ball up, is that some golfers don’t understand that means improve your lie, but not your position. Let me give you a few examples that I’ve experienced, and you hate to be the bad guy but you don’t want your opponent to beat you by cheating either. So on a par 3 if you hit your tee shot a clubs length short of the green, you can’t move it forward onto the green. I’ve seen that happen many times. If your ball is directly behind a tree you can’t move it sideways one club length to afford a clear shot. That rule is often violated. And you certainly can’t move your ball a club length from out of bounds onto the course property to avoid a stroke in distance penalty.

By the way, isn’t it interesting how out of bounds varies from sport to sport? In football a player who steps onto the sidelines is considered to be out of bounds, the rule is similar in basketball. In baseball if a batted ball hits the foul line it’s a fair ball, same in tennis. Golf is weird in that respect, out of bounds is normally defined by white stakes. To determine if your ball is in play or not you have to sight down the stake line. And if at least half of your ball is on the course side of the stakes, you’re in play. And by the way, you can legally stand out of bounds to play a ball in bounds.

How well do you know the USGA rules of golf? That sounds like a three part series to me, or at least a topic for another show. Until next week, hit ’em straight, and if you can’t get out on the course, practice your putting!