Despite what you may have heard from ‘bar-room experts’ there is no Rule relating to the positioning of holes on the putting green, so there is no such thing as an ‘illegal’ hole location. However, there are many factors that affect the correct positioning of holes and those that are responsible for their placement should be aware of them all.
As this subject is outside of the Rules I am not going to attempt to elaborate on the various issues myself, but will instead link you to the authoritative sources of information;
Whilst these are the guidelines from the Ruling Bodies I strongly recommend an article written in 2008 by Jerry Lemons, an American golf course designer and consultant entitled ‘Putting Green Speeds, Slopes, and “Non-Conforming” Hole Locations’. It is from this excellent 5-page article that I am reproducing the following extract;
Remember, these are recommendations. The Rules of Golf do not define what are ‘conforming’ or ‘non-conforming’ hole positions.Hole LocationsIn reality, there are several factors to consider when determining a hole location, but if it is cut on the putting surface, it is legal. A hole should be placed in such a position that no matter where the golfer is putting from, assuming continuous putting surface between himself and the hole, it should be possible to stop the ball within approximately two feet of the hole. A green so fast (or a hole cut in such a position) that a ball cannot be stopped near the hole from any point on the green, for example, is an unfair challenge. Hole placements as a general rule need to be five paces from the edge of the putting surface. No one likes to see a missed putt roll back or a well-struck putt roll completely off a green when the ball has missed the hole. We all agonize when it happens to us or a favourite professional on television. By using the charts and checking slopes near the hole, a hole location can be set far enough away from steep slopes and the edge of the green so that a ell executed shot that misses the hole will not run off the green, thus giving the player an opportunity to hole out. The five-pace recommendation is a good one on courses with large greens, but consider that on a 5,000 sq. ft. green, 25% of the green is in the five-pace area (Figure 2). There are courses with small or irregularly shaped greens for which the five-pace suggestion just does not work. Using a 10' guideline increases holeable space by 33%. An even better guide is to make sure that a hole is no less than 10' from the edge of a putting surface, but only if no hazards or steep slopes are within five paces of the edge of the green. This allows a player enough room to have a reasonable opportunity to recover from a good shot that just missed the green. Take care on greens with multiple contours and slopes. A hole location on the front portion of a multilevel green may be difficult for most golfers to navigate when above the hole. Authored by Jerry Lemons. http://www.lemonsgolfdesign.com
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