In the new Rules of Golf from January 1, the flagstick can remain in the hole when putting.
2019 Rule: Under Rule 13.2a(2):
- There will no longer be a penalty if a ball played from the putting green hits a flagstick left in the hole.
- Players will not be required to putt with the flagstick in the hole; rather, they will continue to have the choice to have it removed (which includes having someone attend the flagstick and remove it after the ball is played).
Reasons for Change:
Allowing a player to putt with the flagstick in the hole without fear of penalty should generally help speed up play.
When the players do not have caddies, the current Rule can result in considerable delay.
On balance it is expected that there should be no advantage in being able to putt with the unattended flagstick in the hole:
- In some cases, the ball may strike the flagstick and bounce out of the hole when it might otherwise have been holed, and
- In other cases, the ball may hit the flagstick and finish in the hole when it might otherwise have missed.