Saturday, 21 January 2012

Attending the Flagstick

Warren Little / Getty Images

I have noticed that when I give presentations on the Rules of Golf to Clubs one of the questions that is regularly raised is whether a player can ask for the flagstick to be attended when they are playing their ball from off the putting green. The answer is an unequivocal, Yes. Rule 17-1 states;
Before making a stroke from anywhere on the course, the player may have the flagstick attended, removed or held up to indicate the position of the hole.
Of course this does not mean that players should emulate Phil Mickelson who, in January last year, on the last hole at Torrey Pines, sent his caddie, ‘Bones’ Mackay to attend the flagstick when he was still almost 90 yards from the hole. He needed an eagle to tie the Farmers Insurance Open and nearly pulled it off with a splendid pitch that landed on the sloping green and rolled back, stopping a few feet short of the hole.

Another question regularly asked is whether the person can stand anywhere in relation to the hole when attending the flagstick. The answer is that they can. Don’t listen to those that wrongly claim that the attendant must not stand behind the hole while the putt is made. However, it is good etiquette not to stand on the player’s line of putt, or an extension of that line behind the hole, or on the putting lines of any other player in the group that has still to play. Another point of etiquette to be aware of on a sunny day is to ensure that your shadow is nowhere near the hole, or any point on the player’s line of putt.

Here is a related point that many golfers may not be aware of from Rule 8-2b;

When the player's ball is on the putting green, the player, his partner or either of their caddies may, before but not during the stroke, point out a line for putting, but in so doing the putting green must not be touched. A mark must not be placed anywhere to indicate a line for putting.
Decision 8-2b/2 illustrates two different circumstances where the player would be penalised. Note the subtle difference between the caddie placing his foot in order to point out the line and taking his position at the flagstick and subsequently using his foot as a guide;
Q. A player's ball lies on the putting green and his caddie attends the flagstick for him. The caddie suggests, before the stroke, that the player aim at the caddie's left foot. Is the player in breach of Rule 8-2b?

A. If the caddie had placed his foot in position for the purpose of pointing out the line for putting, the player was in breach of Rule 8-2b as soon as the caddie placed his foot in that position. The breach could not be corrected by the caddie subsequently moving his foot.

If the caddie did not initially place his foot in such a position for the purpose of pointing out the line for putting but subsequently suggested the player aim at his left foot, the player would be in breach of Rule 8-2b if the caddie did not move that foot to another position that does not indicate a line for putting prior to the stroke.

The same answer would apply if a player's partner attends the flagstick for him.
It is a good practice for the person attending the flagstick to partially remove it from its anchor at the base of the hole prior to the player making a stroke. The flagstick should be rested on the base of hole-liner with care being taken not to damage the circumference of the hole.  This prevents the possibility of the the flagstick becoming 'stuck' and accidentally lifting the hole-liner as the ball approaches the hole.

Good golfing,

The above content is strictly copyright to Barry Rhodes © 2012 and may not be copied without permission.


brian proctor said...

Surely the caddies foot would have been behind the hole, and the line of putt does not extend beyond the hole so why an infringement.

Barry Rhodes said...


Both the Decisions that I quoted referred to Rule 8-2b, part of which states;

When the player’s ball is on the putting green, the player, his partner or either of their caddies may, before but not during the stroke, point out a line for putting, but in so doing the putting green must not be touched. A mark must not be placed anywhere to indicate a line for putting.

A flagstick attendant's foot is a mark if it has been left in a position to show the line for a putt.


Anonymous said...

I think I am understanding that if you have the flagstick attended from off the green, and you hit it, that is a penalty? Thank you.

Barry Rhodes said...


Yes, Part of Rule 17-3 states;

"The player’s ball must not strike
a. The flagstick when it is attended, removed or held up."


Anonymous said...

Hi my name is Dan Buckley and I am a level 2 rules official (still need to do my practical hours). I know that rule 17-1 states that you can have the flag attended from anywhere on the golf course. Where I am struggling is I can’t find a definition for Attending. I was always under the understanding that if you had the flag attended while chipping/putting etc. from off the green that if the ball was coming in too hot that your partner/caddie was able to remove their hand from the flagstick and leave it in the hole as long as the shot originated from off the green. However now I am under the impression that anyone who attends a flagstick much remove it after the stroke has been played.

Can you please advise me on this.

Dan Buckley


Barry Rhodes said...


Decision 17-1/1 provides the answer to your question;

Q. Note 1 to Rule 17-1 states that, if anyone "stands near the hole," he is deemed to be attending the flagstick. Is such a person considered to be standing "near the hole" if he is close enough to touch the flagstick?

A. Yes

Your original understanding was wrong. If anyone is standing close enough to the flagstick when any stroke is made they must be ready to remove the flagstick, otherwise the player making the stroke is penalised two strokes if their ball hits it, Rule 17-3a.


Toyer said...

The language of this rule seems to preclude any explicit verbal refusal of flag attendance like "no, please leave it in." Hence a short 12 yd chip from the fringe, a situation where it may not be odd for a partner to be within arms reach of the flag, might require the player to ask that the partner back away from the hole so as to not be deemed as attending the flagstick. Is this true? Seems odd to force player movement when it's easier and completely harmless to explicitly indicate to the foursome "I'm leaving the flag in."

Barry Rhodes said...


Yes, the player must ask the partner or fellow competitor to move away from the flagstick if they do not want it attended. I am not privvy to the reason why Rules/Decisions are made, but it seems likely to me that this is to prevent a situation where someone standing near the flagstick can claim that they were attending it, if they thought the putt was most likely to be holed with the flagstick removed, or leave it in the hole if they thought that the ball was travelling too fast and might benefit from hitting the flagstick. If they are not within touching distance of the flagstick, any move to remove it while the ball was in motion would be a breach of Rule 17-2.


Toyer said...

Thanks Barry... I guess that gets closer to removing doubt, conflict and ambiguity which is pretty much the point. --Appreciate the reply!

stewman said...

Hi Barry, A regular "bone of contention" I have with our seniors is they insist that the person attending has to stand with one hand on the flag while the stroke is made and the ball is travelling. I believe that, providing I have ensured that the flag is free within the cup, I can stand away to one side and then return to the flag once the ball is in motion. This removes any problems with shadows and peoples line etc. Can you advise please?


Barry Rhodes said...


Decision 17-1/1 clarifies that anyone standing close enough to touch the flagstick is deemed to be attending it. So, you are right.