Question: - When I lift my ball am I allowed to clean it?
Answer: - It depends on the circumstances
A ball on the putting green may be cleaned when lifted. (Rule16-1b)
A ball elsewhere may be cleaned when lifted with the following exceptions:-
. (i) To determine if it is fit for play
(ii) For identification (Rule12-2), in which case it may be cleaned only to the extent necessary for identification.
(iii) Because it is assisting or interfering with play.
If a player cleans a ball during play except when provided in the rule they incur a penalty on one stroke. (Rule 21)
A ball may also be cleaned when winter local rules are in force as below:-
Additional Local Rule PREFERRED LIES,
A ball lying on a closely mown area through the green may be moved or lifted without penalty, cleaned and placed within six inches of where it originally lay but not nearer the hole (not in a hazard or on a putting green). Before lifting the ball the player must mark its position, a player may move or place his/her ball once and after the ball has been so moved or placed, it is in play .Relief from a plugged ball through the green is permitted.
This local rule applies to any closely mown area (not just fairway).
You should also bear in mind that as this rule applies through the green you can not move a ball six inches on the putting green or in a hazard.