NCG's Golf Glossary: What is tending the flag?

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What does tending the flag mean? Well, here at National Club Golfer we’re the publication for the everyday player and so we’ve taken it upon ourselves to give you a step-by-step introduction to the wonderful world of the golfing lexicon.

Sometimes the most obvious terms have the most interesting story, so you might find yourself an interesting conversation starter…

What does tending the flag mean?

When playing a stroke on a putting green, your golf ball is not permitted to hit the flagstick. That means that, if you wish to avoid a penalty for doing so, you must remove the flag before taking the putt.

Simple right? Well, what if you have a particularly long putt and have trouble seeing the hole? In this instance, you get a playing partner to tend the flag for you.

This means, as you line up for your putt, said partner holds on to the flag and then lifts it out of the cup as the ball approaches. Thereby allowing you to see the hole while also avoiding a penalty.

It is common practice to ask all players whose balls are on the green whether or not they need the flag. If the answer is no, the flag can be removed for all putts.

You are allowed to ask a playing partner to tend the flag for you at any point during a round. It is usually done while on the green or attempting to chip onto the green.

Etiquette requires that you should also offer to tend the flag for a playing partner if it seems an appropriate moment to do so.

How would you use it in a sentence?

“I had a long putt and couldn’t see the hole so Roger was tending the flag for me.”

What’s the origin?

The use of flags attached to the sticks used to mark holes was first mentioned in 1875. Despite this, golf historians (yes, they exist) believe they were used before that date.

Any other business?

It’s rule 17 of the Rules of Golf that governs flags and flagsticks. If you hit any part of the flag or the flagstick, you will incur a penalty. Under rule 17, the flag is part of the flagstick.

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