Rules: Attending the Flagstick
Resident rules expert, Barry Rhodes offers some advice on attending the flagstick on and off the green.
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 17-3 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 on one famous occasion in January 2001, while playing his 72nd 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 that is regularly asked is whether the person attending the flagstick can stand anywhere in relation to the hole. 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 close to 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;
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 of putt, 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 of putt 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 of putt prior to the stroke.
The same answer would apply if a player's partner attends the flagstick for him.
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, before moving it away. The same answer would apply if a player's partner attends the flagstick for them.
Other points to remember about attending a flagstick are;
- If a player stands close enough to a flagstick to be able to touch it, they are deemed to be attending it. Decision 17-1/1.
- Anyone who attends, removes or holds up the flagstick without the authority or prior knowledge of the player during their stroke, or subsequently while their ball is in motion, incurs the general penalty if their act could have influenced the movement of the ball. Rule 17-2.
- If anyone attends or holds up the flagstick while a stroke is being made, they are deemed to be attending the flagstick until the ball comes to rest.
- If a ball that is played towards an attended flagstick hits the flagstick, the flag, the attendant, or the attendant’s equipment, the player incurs the general penalty. So make sure that the person that you have authorised to attend the flagstick is paying attention when you make your stroke!
No Rules, no knowledge; know Rules, know knowledge.
As always, good golfing,
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Article from Barry Rhodes author of the book, ‘999 Questions on the Rules of Golf 2016’
Barry is author of the book, '999 Updated Questions on the Rules of Golf 2012 - 2015' and writes a regular blog of miscellaneous content on the rules of Golf at www.barryrhodes.comLatest Articles
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