Dear Dr. Divot,
I’ve got two questions for you, Doc. The guys I started playing with “roll” the ball in the fairway. In other words, it’s “winter rules” year ’round. And two of these guys use distance-measuring devices on every shot. One has pictures on a screen and the other measures yardage to the flagstick. Can they turn in these scores for their handicaps?
Give the ol’ Doc a second to make a point here: the essence of the game we love is to “Play the course as you find it and play the ball as it lies.” That means you accept the fact that golf is played outdoors in natural surroundings and that perfect conditions cannot be achieved (unless, of course, you play on the PGA Tour). The test is to challenge yourself. Learn to play different shots from the conditions Mother Nature created.
Today’s Golf Course Superintendents do a wonderful job of conditioning our courses so we get maximum enjoyment from the experience. But life ain’t fair, Curious. Sometimes you draw a bad lie…even in the fairway. Unless it’s a situation covered under Rule 25, Play it!
Preferred lies – the correct term for what you guys call “winter rules” – are occasionally employed because of a temporary condition brought on by a run of bad weather or some general condition afflicting the course. The weather might get so bad that it is impossible to get heavy mowing equipment on the course triggering the Committee or the Superintendent to invoke preferred lies for a short period.
If a condition exists on just part of the course, the Superintendent will use Ground Under Repair in those places to protect the course from further damage. These areas get marked with a white line and, usually, a sign. You get free relief to the nearest point at which neither your stance, swing or lie of the ball are affected by the GUR.
Do you post your score when preferred lies are in effect? Yes.
Although you may run into some guy who thinks he gets a free-pass on posting his score when he shoots a particularly good, or bad, score on a day when preferred lies are in effect, you post every time you play.
As to those laser- and GPS-based distance measuring devices your buddies have, it is perfectly acceptable to post your scores when these new fangled aides are used… so long as they measure distance only. If the device measures elevation changes, wind direction or “beer breath” – anything but distance – the score is not valid for handicap purposes.
The Doc remembers years ago, when he was a caddie, the big Oak tree on number one was 153 yards to the middle of the green and the little bush on the second hole was 138. The members thought we were pretty smart, but the truth was “Arkansas Bob” went out one night and stepped off all those yardages. Then he sold them to the rest of us for five bucks apiece!
Most people credit Jack Nicklaus with inventing the yardage book, but never underestimate the business acumen of a professional caddie in need of a drink.
Dr. C.B. Divot