“Quick, lift up the flagstick so my ball doesn’t hit it!”
If a ball in motion after a stroke were about to strike the flagstick, which had been removed and laid down anywhere on the course, there would be no penalty if it were lifted to avoid having a ball strike it. If the same thing had happened before 2008, it would have been a penalty.
First mentioned in the Rules in 1875, the flagstick has been an important part of the game. As always, let’s look at its definition first.
“The flagstick is a movable straight indicator, with or without bunting or other material attached, centered in the hole to show its position. It must be circular in cross section. Padding or shock absorbent material that might unduly influence the movement of the ball is prohibited.”
There are no restrictions on the size of the flagstick. In windy areas such as Scotland, flagsticks tend to be shorter. On a hole with an uphill shot to the green, the flagstick may be somewhat longer to aid in locating the hole. The USGA recommends it be at least seven feet in length.
Regardless, its main job is to show us where the hole is located on the putting green from a distance away. Generally speaking, if the flagstick is struck from a ways away, there would be no penalty and the resulting deflection of the ball is where you play from next; good or bad luck.
However, once you do reach the putting green, the flag should be removed to avoid any interference with a ball putted from the green. The flagstick must not be used to alter or assist the path of the putted ball.
Here are few things you may not know regarding Rules and the flagstick:
- A player may have the flagstick removed, attended, or held up, no matter where the ball lies; even when not on the green.
- If a ball in motion after a stroke from anywhere strikes the flagstick when it is either attended, removed or held up, the player loses the hole in match play or incurs a two stroke penalty in stroke play.
- If a ball in motion after a stroke from anywhere strikes the person attending or holding up the flagstick, or anything carried by him, the player loses the hole in match play or incurs a two stroke penalty in stroke play.
- If a ball in motion after a stroke from on the putting green strikes the flagstick when still in the hole, the player loses the hole in match play or incurs a two stroke penalty in stroke play.
- If a ball in motion after a stroke from off the putting green strikes the flagstick when still in the hole, there is no penalty.
- If a ball were to become stuck in the flag itself after a stroke, the player would be entitled to place the ball on the lip of the hole without penalty and play from there. You should be able to handle it from there!
Remember, knowing and following the Rules of Golf can assist you in avoiding unnecessary penalties and help you to enjoy this great game of golf even more.