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What Are “Winter Rules” in Golf?

We are headed (hopefully) into the wetter season, but let’s be honest, we live in California and so we are keeping our tee time!

There are seldom things more uncomfortable in golf than setting the rules with your playing companion on the first tee box and not fully understanding the rules that are being set.

We are here to help!

When anybody suggests, “let’s play winter rules”, here is what they mean:

Players have the option of lifting, cleaning and placing the ball when Winter Rules are in play.  If they choose to place the ball (versus playing it as it lies) then they must adhere to the following:

  • Before lifting the ball, the player must mark its position immediately behind the ball.
  • Having lifted the ball, the player must place it on a spot within six inches, not nearer the hole from where it originally lay.  6 inches is roughly equivalent to the length of a MGC scorecard.
  • A player may place his ball only once. If the ball subsequently moves, there is no penalty and the ball must be played as it lies. (In practice, mark, lift and clean, place within 6 inches, remove marker. After that, the ball is live.)
  • If the player fails to mark the position of the ball before lifting it or moves the ball in any other manner, such as rolling it with a club, he incurs a penalty of one stroke.

Note: Somewhat surprisingly, when placing the ball, the ball may be moved from fairway to rough and vice versa if within the allowed measuring distance from the original spot once it is not nearer the hole.

When bunkers are deemed out of play the relief is: The player must drop out of the bunker within one club length at the nearest point of relief not nearer the hole.  It is generally advisable to agree with your playing partners what is the nearest point of relief before taking the drop. And if Winter Rules are in play then you can lift, clean, and place as described above.

When bunkers are deemed to be Ground Under Repair (GUR) the player has the option of treating the bunker as out of play OR the player also has the option of playing the ball.

NOTE: When dropping in the rough if the ball rolls more than 6 inches from your marker after two drops it can be placed. 

So there you have it! Winter rules explained. Now you can adhere to suggested rules, as well as educate your partners on them.