Of "Pin"terest... The Flagstick, Rule 17

OGA Senior Rules Officials: Pete Scholz and Terry McEvilly

By definition, the “flagstick” is a movable straight indicator, with or without bunting (cloth) or other material (wicker basket or otherwise) attached, centered in the hole to show its position.  The flagstick must be circular in cross-section and padding or shock absorbent material that might unduly influence the movement of the ball is prohibited.  It is also considered a movable obstruction and may be removed prior to a stroke and to avoid penalty there are times when it must be removed prior to a stroke. 

How good is your knowledge of the flagstick? 


  1. After leaving a putt just short of the hole, the player removes and holds the flagstick with one hand and taps in the putt with the other hand.  There is no penalty. 
  2. A player putts and misjudges the speed of the green.  His ball rolls and strikes the flagstick which had been removed and was lying on the ground behind the hole.  There is no penalty and the player must play the ball as it lies.
  3. The player asks his fellow-competitor to attend the flagstick and the player’s ball strikes the fellow-competitor on the foot coming to rest in the hole.  The stroke must be cancelled and replayed.
  4. A player uses his putter from the fringe and his ball strikes the flagstick in the hole.  There is no penalty.
  5. A player makes a stroke from off the putting green and as his ball is rolling towards the hole his fellow-competitor, who was not attending the flagstick, quickly removes the flagstick thinking the player will incur a penalty if his ball strikes the flagstick.  There is no penalty.
  6. The flagstick may never be held up to indicate the position of the hole during a stroke.
  7. A player putts too hard and the ball is rolling toward the removed flagstick lying on the ground behind the hole.  A fellow-competitor quickly lifts the flagstick to prevent the ball from striking it.  There is no penalty to either player.
  8. A ball comes to rest against the flagstick positioned in the hole but all of the ball is not below the lip of the hole.   The player removes the flagstick and the ball falls into the hole.  The player incurs a one stroke penalty for moving his ball in play and must replace the ball.
  9. A putt comes to rest one inch from the hole.  There is no penalty if the player taps in the short putt without removing the flagstick. 
  10. The flagstick may not be attended for a stroke from a hazard. 



  1. True.  This is permitted provided the ball doesn’t strike the flagstick.  (Decision 17-1/5).
  2. False.  The player incurs a loss of hole penalty in match play or a two stroke penalty in stroke play.  In stroke play the ball must be played as it lies.  Rule 17-3 contains a short list of when the ball must not strike the flagstick or the attendant.  (Also see Decision 17-3/3).
  3. False.  Since the player authorized the fellow-competitor to attend the flagstick he is liable for any breaches of the Rules and the player incurs a two stroke penalty.  The ball must be played as it lies.  Therefore, the ball is holed and the player must add two strokes to his score for that hole.  (Penalty Statement to Rule 17-3)
  4. True.  There is no penalty for striking an unattended flagstick, in the hole, from off the green.  Rule 17-3c, which prohibits striking the flagstick in the hole, unattended, applies only when the ball is on the putting green. 
  5. False.  The actions of the fellow-competitor is a breach of Rule 17-2 as this constitutes unauthorized attendance.  The fellow-competitor incurs a two stroke penalty for the breach and the player must play the ball as it lies. 
  6. False.  Rule 17-1 allows the player to have the flagstick held up directly over the hole during a stroke without penalty provided the ball doesn’t strike the flagstick or the attendant.  It is important to note that the flagstick must not be held up during a stroke anywhere else that may assist the player, such as over the line of play.
  7. True.  Generally, movable obstructions must not be moved while a ball is in motion if doing so could influence the movement of the ball.  However, Rule 24-1 (Movable Obstructions) allows the flagstick to be moved when it is attended, removed or held up.  But remember, a flagstick that is not being attended, or that has not been removed prior to the stroke must not be moved if doing so could influence the movement of the ball. 
  8. False.  When the ball rests against the flagstick but is not holed, Rule 17-4 allows the player to move or remove the flagstick and if the ball falls into the hole the ball is holed with no penalty.  If the ball does not fall into the hole but rolls anywhere else it must be placed on the lip of the hole with no penalty.  Our advice; move or remove the flagstick carefully.
  9. False.  Any stroke made from the putting green must not strike the flagstick, regardless of the distance.  See Rule 17-3c.
  10. False. The first sentence in Rule 17 states “before making a stroke from anywhere on the course, the player may have the flagstick attended…”  Additionally, there are no restrictions on who the player authorizes to attend the flagstick.  It may be attended by an opponent, fellow-competitor, caddie or even a spectator.  Marshals, Forecaddies and Rules Officials should not attended the flagstick unless very exceptional circumstances exist.

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