Saturday, March 20, 2010

Ask Linda #187-Putt hits flagstick–No penalty?

Dear Linda,

In a two-ball, stroke play match, in an attempt to keep the pace up, my opponent, whilst I was still off the green, took a putt whilst on the green and, in the process, her moving ball then struck the flagstick, which had not been removed from the hole.

She thought it was a one-stroke penalty, but I thought it must be a two-stroke penalty.

After our match, we asked our club professional and he said that our local rules allowed for no penalty to be awarded in such a case, as it was good to keep up the pace of play.

Admittedly it was just a friendly match, with no prize at stake, but can such a local rule be generally accepted?



Dear Lulu,

In a stroke play competition, when a player putts a ball that is on the green and it hits the flagstick, the penalty is two strokes [Rule 17-3]. In match play, the penalty is loss of hole.

Your course is not permitted to establish a Local Rule that would waive or modify a rule of golf [Rule 33-1]. The two-stroke penalty for hitting the flagstick is a rule of golf, and may not be waived in the interests of improving the pace of play. Neither your club pro nor any other official or Committee member has the right to establish such a Local Rule.

Appendix I in the back of the United States Golf Association’s The Rules of Golf lists all the situations for which local rules may be adapted, and offers suggested wording for such rules. There may occasionally be situations where abnormal conditions on a golf course will warrant modifying a rule of golf; a Committee would need to obtain the express permission of the USGA to impose such a Local Rule. However, there is nothing abnormal about a flagstick being in a hole, and it would not be permissible to arbitrarily change the rule regarding the ball contacting the flagstick.

There seems to be a misunderstanding regarding the use of Local Rules. These are not rules that a course official may establish at his own whim, but rather a specific set of rules that are spelled out in the back of The Rules of Golf to deal with abnormal conditions on a golf course.


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