What are Winter Rules?

Image result for winter rules golfSpring is coming to the golfing world and I couldn’t be more excited to start a new year on the links! But if your home is anything like mine you might still be worried about some more nasty weather before the season really gets under way.

Thanks to my days of competitive golf I’m very accustomed to playing in less than stellar weather. From forty degrees and rain to howling wind I’ve seen it all out on the course and to be honest, the climate usually doesn’t do anything drastic for my golf game…

Until you bomb your drive down the middle and you end up in a snow pile… then the weather is a problem.

Luckily for us though, there are some common courtesy rules that we can put in place to make sure these early spring rounds go a little smoother for all of us, called winter rules.

The name “winter rules” is actually somewhat of a misnomer in that is is usually  just confused with the rule of preferred lies; something that grants you relief if your ball is obstructed by something that shouldn’t be there. Things like standing water in the fairway, snow, and other things similar allow the player a chance to move their ball granted their drop is:

  • no closer to the hole


  • the new lie is in the same condition the old lie should have been in (can’t move your ball from rough to fairway or out of the way of trees)

Now this might sound great but the most interesting thing about “winter rules” is they aren’t actually “rules” at all. Offically, winter rules are not recognized by the USGA which means that in order for you to be able to use winter rules to your advantage, technically, you either have to ask the course if winter rules are in effect or discuss it with your playing partners before the round.

This might sound like a pain but it’s actually the best part about winter rules. Since there’s no offical definition, you’re free to add and subtract rules as you and your group see fit as long as all the players in your group agree to them.

When I play casually with my dad we like to add a rule about plugged lies in the rough. We just can’t see how it’s fair that you should have to play a ball that you can barely see even if it does happen to wind up in the rough. Besides the plugged lie rule, I’ve also heard of people giving permission to move a ball around in a sand traps that has water inside of it. That sort of freedom, in my opinion, is what makes winter rules great. It’s totally up to you to decided how you want to give relief during your round. But let’s be honest, if it’s me we’re talking about (and I know some of you are in the same boat), we’ll take all the extra help we can get during these first couple rounds. Until next time golfers, enjoy your first couple rounds of the year.



2 thoughts on “What are Winter Rules?

  1. Sully

    I am a big fan of winter rules. We use them at our home course for the first month, at least, to ensure that we do not hurt the course and to make the game fun when just starting. Winter rules can be played all year if you want, but just not for you handicap. Great post.


    Liked by 1 person

    1. Jim,
      You bring up a great point I left out. Winter rules are a great way to prevent the course from getting beaten up, which is especially important early as the grass isn’t yet growing quickly. It also keeps you from having to hit out of water or snow that I’m sure can’t be great for the condition of your clubs. Thanks for weighing in!

      Liked by 1 person

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