"It's in the Hole!"
Have you ever chipped one in from off the green and your ball ended up resting against the flagstick?
Time to grab your ball and head to the next tee, right? Not so fast. You are not done yet since your ball isn’t holed.
First of all, in order for the ball to be holed it must be at rest within the circumference of the hole and all of it must be below the level of the lip of the hole. Often, the ball may not make it all of the way to the bottom of the cup and some of it may still be above the ground. In that case, you have not yet finished. Here’s what you need to do.
Rule 17-4 covers the situation when a player’s ball rests against the flagstick. The player, or another person authorized by him, may move or remove the flagstick. If the ball falls into the hole, the player is deemed to have holed out with his last stroke without penalty. If the flagstick is moved and the ball pops out, it must be placed on the lip of the hole, without penalty; and you putt from there.
On the other hand, if you don’t bother to shake the flagstick but rather just pick up the ball and begin to celebrate before it’s holed, you’ll be assessed a one stroke penalty for lifting your ball without marking its position (Rule 20-1) and you must replace it against the flagstick and apply Rule 17-4 (move or remove the flagstick). If you go ahead and tee off the next tee or, in the case of the last hole of the round, not replace it before you leave the putting green, you’ll not have a score in match play (and most likely lose the hole) or be disqualified for failing to hole out in stroke.
If someone other than your partner were to lift your ball and toss it to you without your permission, they may be the one on the hook for a penalty. In match play, they would get a one-stroke penalty under Rule 18-3b and in stroke play, there would be no penalty. You would still have the authority to place the ball back where it was, without penalty, with the flagstick leaning against it and try your best at wiggling the flagstick.
I’ve only heard of one instance where someone jiggled the flagstick and had the ball pop out instead of falling in the hole. It was on a par 3 and he didn’t have hole-in-one insurance, so he was off the hook for drinks for everyone on the course!
Remember, use the index or the table of contents to find the correct Rule that applies to the situation and follow the Rules of Golf to help yourself to enjoy the game of golf.