Do You Have to Remove the Flagstick Before Putting?

flagstick on golf green

Here's the situation: Your golf ball is on the putting green and you are lining up your putt. The flagstick stands in the hole. Do you have to take that flagstick out before you putt? Or, at least, have someone tend the flag and remove it before your ball reaches the cup?

The short answer: No.

The Flagstick Rule Changed in 2019

For as long as golfers alive today can remember, one of the rules of golf was that you could not hole a stroke played from the putting green while the flagstick was still in the cup. To put it another way: The flagstick had to be removed from the cup before your ball fell in for any stroke played from the green.

Under the old rules, if you putted into a cup with the flag still in, it was a penalty on you.

Not anymore. The 2019 edition of the Rules of Golf removed that old rule. Now, golfers can leave the flag in or take it out, whichever they prefer.

In the current rules, Rule 13.2a addresses the flagstick:

The player may make a stroke with the flagstick left in the hole, so that it is possible for the ball in motion to hit the flagstick.

The player must decide this before making the stroke, by either:

*Leaving the flagstick where it is in the hole or moving it so that it is centred in the hole and leaving it there, or
*Having a removed flagstick put back in the hole.

... If the player makes a stroke with the flagstick left in the hole and the ball in motion then hits the flagstick:

*There is no penalty ... and the ball must be played as it lies.

So golfers have three options when it comes to the flagstick:

  • Take it out before putting (or playing any other stroke);
  • Ask your caddie or another golfer to tend the flagstick;
  • Or leave the flagstick in the hole.

Photo credit: "Green, Axe Cliff Golf Club" by Derek Harper is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0

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