Rules of Golf - Moving Objects
If you play golf long enough, you will eventually hit a putt or chip way too hard or off line and in a direction that the ball might strike someone’s equipment or a removed flagstick. When this happens, are you allowed to be the nice-guy, or nice-lady, and move the equipment or flagstick to prevent the speeding ball from striking it? To find out let’s take a look at the Rules.
When looking through the Rules it is easy to be confused on what objects may be moved while a ball is in motion. For instance, Rule 1-2 tells us we must not take any action to influence the movement of a golf ball or alter physical conditions. Then Rule 19 explains to us that a penalty is incurred when a ball is in motion and strikes the player’s or partner’s equipment and a removed flagstick. Finally, we get to Rule 24-Obstructions, and it specifically tells us that we may move any equipment or a removed flagstick while a ball is in motion to prevent the ball from striking it.
It could be argued that Rule 1-2 conflicts with Rule 24-1; however, one of the key’s to learning the Rules is knowing that a specific statement overrides a general statement. So, Rule 24-1 specifically covers removing equipment and a removed flagstick while Rule 1-2 has more general statements.
What is the answer to the original question? May you move equipment or a removed flagstick while a ball is in motion?
The answer is YES
Rule 24-1: When a ball is in motion, an obstruction that might influence the movement of the ball, other than equipment of any player or the flagstick when attended, removed or held up, must not be moved.
When your friend hits a putt too hard and it is rolling towards the flagstick laying on the green, help your friend out and move the flagstick before the ball strikes. You’ll save your friend from a two-stroke penalty (or loss of hole in match play) and earn some brownie points!
When your fellow competitor skulls a bunker shot and the ball is bouncing towards his golf bag on the opposite side of the green, go ahead and move his equipment to prevent the ball from striking his own equipment and incurring a one-stroke penalty.
Be careful though! The statement in Rule 24-1 in italics above only says equipment or the flagstick may be moved, not movable obstructions. If you were to move a rake, or some other artificial object while a ball is in motion and the movement of that object influences the movement of the golf ball, you will be penalized under Rule 1-2. The penalty is two-strokes in stroke play, loss of hole in match play, or disqualification if the Committee felt it was a serious breach of the Rules.