Rules Guy: If your playing partner fails to tend the pin when you ask them, do you have to take a penalty?

Man tending flag

If your playing partner fails to tend the pin when you ask them, do you have to take a penalty?

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The Rules of Golf are tricky! Thankfully, we’ve got the guru. Our Rules Guy knows the book front to back. Got a question? He’s got all the answers.

Thirty years ago, I was playing in a tournament with another player who volunteered to tend the pin while I chipped the ball. As the ball approached the pin, he failed to pull it. At the last second the ball veered off target, but I always wondered what would have happened had it hit the pin. Would I have been penalized for his inaction? — Paul Boehm, Isle of Palms, S.C.

Paul, you have been thinking about this for 30 years? It’s been gnawing at you that long, and only now have you decided to find an answer? Either you have the patience of a saint, or you are a procrastinator of truly epic proportions ….

Under the current rules, it all depends on why he failed to pull the pin. If it was accidental then it’s no harm, no foul — play the ball as it lies (or if it went in, it’s holed).

If instead this player deliberately left the pin in, he gets the general penalty, even though he was attending it at your request. In this non-accidental instance, you wouldn’t play it as it lies; since you were chipping from off the green, you’d estimate where the ball would have otherwise come to rest and drop in a relief area if that’s off the green or place at that spot if on the green, under Rules 13.2b and 11.2c.

Rules Guy: Can I use a drone to check the pin position before hitting my approach?
By: Rules Guy

Unless it was match play, since your opponent would have lost the hole for his (in)action, and you could just pick up your ball and go to the next tee. We can only hope that explanation was worth the wait.

For more pin-related guidance from our guru, read on …

My group was on the green, with the pin taken out. While Player A putted, Player B swung his putter over the prone pin, working on the arc of his stroke. After needling Player B that no amount of practice would help him, we later wondered if using the pin as an aid is a no-no. — Jim Downs, Bristol, R.I.

Rules Guy himself wonders if your use of “needling” is a play on the word “pin”— if so, well played!

Regardless, practice putting over a prone pin to pinpoint one’s path is perfectly proper and permissible. (Phew!)

Tour Aim

Tour Aim With 3 Alignment Sticks


However, under Rule 4.3a, using an alignment stick for the same purpose is not permitted, because that falls under the category of training aid. You get the general penalty (loss of hole in match play or two strokes in stroke play) for the first breach and are disqualified for a subsequent breach, so spare the rod on the course.

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Got a question about the Rules? Ask the Rules Guy! Send your queries, confusions and comments to We promise he won’t throw the book at you.

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