Preferred Lies 101: Better Known as Lift, Clean and Place

Table of Contents

Golf is a hard sport to begin with but throw in bad weather and it’s nearly impossible. But despite rain, harsh winds, and cold temperatures, people still show up to the golf course if it’s open. 

Winter golf isn’t the most fun sometimes but it’s better than not playing golf. You can adapt to the conditions and still enjoy the day if you have the right equipment. 

The Golf Gods reward avid players with a local rule called lift, clean, place. These local rules make it easier to score well in winter, cold, and wet golf. 

Continue reading to learn more about the local rule and other winter-golf strategies that will help you play solid. 

Lift, Clean, and Place in Golf 101 (Preferred Lie)

What does it mean to lift and clean in golf?

It is basically exactly the same as it sounds. When the weather is less than ideal and the ball gets muddy due to wet fairways, sometimes “winter rules” aka preferred lies get implemented to promote fair play.  

This local rule focuses on lifting, cleaning, and placing the golf ball. This rule will be followed. You can mark your ball and then lift and clean it. This will help you get rid off any mud, debris, or water from your ball. 

The golf rules state that once cleaned, you can place (not drop) the ball near your mark as long as it’s not closer to the hole. This is a huge benefit as you can create a perfect lie and don’t have to drop it from knee height. 

However, when placing the ball, you can’t move it from one type of turf conditions to another. For example, you can’t move the golf ball from the rough to the fairway, even if they’re damaged fairways. 

You might also find relief on different courses. Some courses allow you to play winter rules on the fairway while others require you to hit it on the fairway in order to get relief. This rewards hitting the short stuff and penalizes hitting the rough more. 

Conditions that are not favorable

This local rule is used mostly in winter golf. It can be used if the course is extremely dry due to a severe drought or if there are bare patches on the fairway. Some courses allow you to lie down at a preferred club length. This will ensure a good lie even if the course isn’t in perfect condition.

Rain tips for playing in the rain 

Even if you have preferred lies, it can be difficult to play in the rain. Here are some of my favorite tips.

  • Invest in rain gloves
  • Bring plenty of towels
  • Don’t forget to bring a golf umbrella 
  • Wear the right gear including rain suits, jacket, and hat (don’t forget your rain hood too) 

This tip also comes from Greg Norman should also help. “When the ball and turf are wet and the grooves of your irons are filled with water, don’t expect to put much backspin on the ball. You’ll get a semi-flyer shot, but you won’t get more distance than usual because the weight of the rain will cancel the spinless flight of the ball… t’s generally wise to take one club more than normal and make a controlled, balanced swing to guard against slippage.” 

Learn more about playing in wet conditions golf “How to Play Golf in the Rain.”

FAQs about Winter Golf

Do you have any questions about this rule or how to play your best in winter conditions. Continue reading if you have more questions.


Can you mark and clean the fairway with your ball?

Only if you’re playing winter rules. It is a crime to lift and clean your balls from the fairway, rough or bunker. 

What does it entail to lift clean in golf?

This refers to preferred lies, where players can mark, lift and clean their ball. They can place the ball back in the original spot if they feel it is a good lie. This only applies if winter rules/preferred lying are in effect at fairway height, or in an area that is closely mown.

What does it take to lift clean and put through the green mean?

This means that relief is available throughout the hole, although it is usually only in tightly mown areas (fairways). This means that you can also get relief at the fringe. This is a great benefit because you can mark, clean and line up your ball as if it were a putt on a green. 

Are pro golfers allowed to play preferred lies?

Yes, this rule is sometimes allowed by tournaments when conditions warrant it. Although the PGA Tour usually plays in good weather conditions, there are times when Mother Nature prevails. The greenskeeping staff is able to make the course perfect in as little as 24 hours and still allow players to lie.

However, it can change from day to day depending on the weather and conditions on the golf course. If they do allow this rule, it applies only to the fairway and not to the rough. 

Is it the same as lift clean, place?

Yes, the two golf terms mean the same thing. 

Do you think you would have preferred to live in the rough?

This rule might be enforced at your local club. But for tournament play, it’s almost never allowed and incentives players to hit it in the short grass. 

Can anyone lift your golf ball?

According to the USGA“Your ball may be lifted under the Rules only by you or anyone you authorize, but you must give such authorization each time before your ball is lifted rather than giving it generally for the round.” 

Only a caddy is allowed to lift your ball on the green without authorization. 

Final Thoughts on Lift, Clean, and Place Rules

Before you put your ball on the tee, check to make sure that the local rule applies. Also make sure to check if it’s in the fairway (closely mown area) and/or rough too. You could be penalized if you break lift clean and place rules.

Finally, don’t forget to mark your ball with a tee or divot tool before picking it up to clean off debris. Otherwise, you will receive a penalty stroke as well if you’re competing in a formal golf tournament. 

These articles will help you thrive in less-than-perfect weather.

  • 13 Tips for Cold Weather Golf 
  • Cold Weather Golf Gear: Go from January to June

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Connect, Share, and Grow with Fellow Golfers

Take Your Game to the Next Level © All Rights Reserved 2023