Rules Guy: Is it permissible to hold the flagstick while you putt?
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A player’s ball is laying a foot from the hole. He thinks the flagstick is a bit off-center, so he decides to center it, and, while still holding it in one hand, he sinks the putt using his other hand. Reading Rule 13.2a and b and the interpretations, I can’t understand if this action is allowed. Maybe you can help. —Marius Bugge, Norway
Rule 13.2a allows a player to have the flagstick centered in the hole.
Interpretation 13.2b(1)/2 allows a player to hold the flagstick in one hand while making a stroke with the other. But it also states that the player must not deliberately let the ball in motion hit the flagstick.
So, this player needed to let go of the flagstick before sinking the putt. He gets the general penalty of two strokes in stroke play or loss of hole in match play; the stroke does not count and he needs to play the stroke again without holding onto the flagstick — or pulling it from the hole before the ball strikes it.
A lot of angst over a one-footer, no?
For more flagstick-related guidance from our guru, read on …
While preparing for a long putt, you ask for the flag to be tended — but it won’t pull out of the cup as the ball approaches the hole! In the first scenario, your ball strikes the pin and goes in; in the second, it hits the pin and stays out. Given that you wanted the pin out and the new-for-2019 Rules, are there penalties or replayed strokes involved in either case, or is it just “play it as it lies”? —Bob Gowers, via email
The dreaded stuck stick! Like 1-irons and plus-fours, you just don’t see people tending the flag anymore, since there is no longer a penalty for a ball played from the green hitting the pin.
Anachronistic though the situation may be, under Rule 13.2b the ball-pin collision is considered accidental in both instances with no penalty, and you, indeed, play the ball as it lies.
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