3 Flagstick Errors That Can Really Cost You

Every regulation golf course that I know of uses a flagstick on each green to mark the position of the hole. As described in the United States Golf Association (USGA) rule book: The “flagstick” is a movable straight indicator, with or without bunting or other material attached, centered in the hole to show its position.

What you do with the flagstick is the issue. 

FlagstickDo you attend the flag? remove it? hold it up? toss it to one side? There are at least 3 mistakes you can make that involve the flagstick. Make one and you face a 2 stroke penalty.

Here are a few scenarios that could and do happen on the golf course… What’s the rule for each?

Error #1 No one asked for your help.

Four golfers are playing a round of golf. All four are on the green, but one is on the far edge, with a 60 foot putt.  The one putting, makes a stroke but does not ask anyone to attend, pull or hold the flagstick. The stroke is well made and the ball heads straight for the hole. Rather than have the ball hit the stick, the golfer nearest to the hole quickly yanks out the flagstick, hitting the golf ball in the process, sending it off to the right.

This is called unauthorised attendance and it’s a two stroke penalty in stroke play, or loss of hole in match play!!!! And the golfer who pulled the flag gets the penalty!

Here’s the rule:
17-2. Unauthorized Attendance    If an opponent or his caddie in match play or a fellow-competitor or his caddie in stroke play, without the player’s authority or prior knowledge, attends, removes or holds up the flagstick during the stroke or while the ball is in motion, and the act might influence the movement of the ball, the opponent or fellow-competitor incurs the applicable penalty.

. . .

Error #2 Yikes! You hit him, her, it!!!

Four golfers are playing a round of golf. All four are on the green. One is 30 yards away at the far edge of the green and asks one of the other golfers to attend the flagstick. The player putts and Yikes! – the ball hits the foot of the golfer who is holding the flagstick…. What’s the rule?

It’s a two stroke penalty for the golfer who putted. Or loss of hole in match play. And the ball must be played as it lies.

Here’s the rule:
17-3 Ball Striking Flagstick or Attendant
The player’s ball must not strike: a. The flagstick when it is attended, removed or held up; b. The person attending or holding up the flagstick or anything carried by him; or c. The flagstick in the hole, unattended, when the stroke has been made on the putting green.

Penalty is two strokes for golfer who made the putt.

There are Two Exceptions :
1. When the flagstick is attended, removed or held up without the player’s authority – see Rule 17-2 above.
2. If a player’s competitor or competitor’s caddie is tending the flag and refuses to remove it in an attempt to cause a penalty, the competitor (not the player) incurs the penalty and may be disqualified!!!  (That’s playing pretty nasty, don’t you think?)

. . .

Error #3 Let the ball drop!
This is one area that I think is a mixed bag and the result is a bit of luck rather than a penalty. The flagstick is in the hole when a golfer chips onto the green. The ball hits the flagstick and stops. It does not drop. What’s the rule? Is the ball in the cup or not?

Here’s the rule: 17-4 Ball  Resting Against Flagstick
When a player’s ball rests against the flagstick in the hole and the ball is not holed, the player or another person authorized by him may move or remove the flagstick, and if the ball falls into the hole, the player is deemed to have holed out with his last stroke; otherwise, the ball, if moved, must be placed on the lip of the hole, without penalty.

What’s the bottom line?

The smart thing is to assume nothing when it comes to flagsticks and putting. If you’re not putting, offer to attend the flagstick. If you’re putting ask that the flagstick be removed or attended if you are so far away and need to be sure where the hole is located. If you’re asked to attend the flag, it’s your job to remove the stick when the ball is heading right for the hole. Refuse to do so in the hope the ball will hit the stick and ricochet away??? – you’re in for a two stroke penalty, plus the well deserved wrath of your fellow golfers.

Pat Mullaly______________
What do you think? Add your comments in the space below and share this post with your friends. For more information about the rules of golf consult the USGA website.<

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