While working as a Rules Official at a junior golf tournament this summer a young player approached me about a situation he had experienced during his round. After the player had played a stroke from just off the putting green, his ball came to rest overhanging the lip of the hole but not resting against the unattended flagstick. He reached the hole without unreasonable delay, waited an additional ten seconds, as the Rules allow, and then removed the flagstick. Shortly after removing the flagstick, the ball fell into the hole. The player replaced the ball and then putted it into the hole. A fellow competitor in his group told him he had holed out once the ball fell into the hole. The player asked me if he had proceeded correctly and if not, what was his score for the hole.
It is a question of fact whether the player’s action caused the ball to move and any doubt should be resolved against the player. The flagstick is a movable obstruction. If the movement of the ball was directly attributed to the removal of flagstick, the ball must be replaced on the lip of the hole without penalty (Rule 24-1a). If the player caused the ball to move but the movement of the ball was not directly attributable to the removal of flagstick, the ball must be replaced on the lip of the hole, and the player incurs a penalty stroke under Rule 18-2a.
If the player’s actions did not cause the ball to move and the ball fell into the hole, the provisions of Rule 16-2 (Ball Overhanging Hole) apply, whether the removal of the flagstick occurs before or after the lapse of time contemplated by Rule 16-2. In this case, the players actions did not cause the ball to move and fall into the hole. Rule 16-2 states that when any part of the ball overhangs the lip of the hole, the player is allowed enough time to reach the hole without unreasonable delay and an additional ten seconds to determine whether the ball is at rest. If by then the ball has not fallen into the hole, it is deemed to be at rest. If the ball subsequently falls into the hole, the player is deemed to have holed out with his last stroke and must add a penalty stroke to his score for the hole; otherwise there is no penalty under the rule. In our case, the player was deemed to holed out on his last stroke and a penalty stroke was added to his score.
Frank Guastella, PGA Rules Official Michigan Section PGA
Staff Writer, Mike Fay Golf
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