September 2012 – Rules IQ
“Preferred lies” or “winter rules” may be put into place as a local course rule, or by a tournament committee, if weather conditions warrant. This may occur after a heavy rain, or in the spring as the ground is thawing.
If the preferred lies rule is in place, the player is allowed to clean his or her ball and replace it within a designated area, which might be as little as six inches or as much as one club length, no closer to the hole. Before picking up the ball, the player must mark its position, then can clean and place it within the defined area.
While players who are having a casual game in the spring or fall may agree to play “preferred lies”, it should be noted that it is not within the rules of golf unless the course has deemed it a local rule.