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golf flagstick

Can a ball hit the flagstick if it’s being attended?

You decided to have the flagstick removed and then your putt struck it. Is it penalty time? Our expert delves once again into the Rules of Golf

 

We all know you can putt with the golf flagstick left in. But what if you’d decided to have it attended and removed from the hole? What if your putt hits the flagstick?

Is it a penalty? Let’s get stuck in to this flagstick rule…

Ball hits golf flagstick or person attending flagstick

This is all covered in Rule 13.2b and it’s a question of intent. If a ball in motion hits a flagstick that you’d decided to have removed, or the person who is attending that flagstick, it all comes down to whether it was accidental or deliberate.

If it’s the former, there is not a penalty and you simply play the ball as it lies. Yes, that means if it’s found the bottom of the cup then the ball is holed.

But if the ball is deliberately deflected or stopped by whoever is attending the flagstick, then Rule 11.2c(2) says you’ve got to replay the stroke.

If the person who “deliberately deflected or stopped the ball was a player or their caddie”, they get the general penalty. That’s two-strokes or loss of hole in match play.

golf flagstick rule

I’ve used the terms deliberately deflected or stopped because that then begs the question: What counts as such? There are three examples in the rule to guide you.

The first is a removed flagstick that’s positioned or left in a place so it might deflect or stop the ball. Like sticking it on a slope behind the hole if you’re worried about going past.

The second is an attended flagstick that the person “deliberately failed to remove form the hole or to move out of the way of the ball”.

The final one is if the person attending or removing the flagstick deliberately failed to get out of the way of the ball.

Got a question for our expert?

Despite the changes to the Rules of Golf in 2019 and 2023, there are still some that leave us scratching our heads. I’ll try to help by featuring the best of your queries in this column.

What do you make of these golf flagstick rules? Let me know with a tweet.

Steve Carroll

Steve Carroll

A journalist for 25 years, Steve has been immersed in club golf for almost as long. A former club captain, he has passed the Level 3 Rules of Golf exam with distinction having attended the R&A's prestigious Tournament Administrators and Referees Seminar.

Steve has officiated at a host of high-profile tournaments, including Open Regional Qualifying, PGA Fourball Championship, English Men's Senior Amateur, and the North of England Amateur Championship. In 2023, he made his international debut as part of the team that refereed England vs Switzerland U16 girls.

A part of NCG's Top 100s panel, Steve has a particular love of links golf and is frantically trying to restore his single-figure handicap. He currently floats at around 11.

Steve plays at Close House, in Newcastle, and York GC, where he is a member of the club's matches and competitions committee and referees the annual 36-hole scratch York Rose Bowl.

Having studied history at Newcastle University, he became a journalist having passed his NTCJ exams at Darlington College of Technology.

What's in Steve's bag: TaylorMade Stealth 2 driver, 3-wood, and hybrids; TaylorMade Stealth 2 irons; TaylorMade Hi-Toe, Ping ChipR, Sik Putter.

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