By: Richard Todd
There are many rule changes by the USGA coming in 2019. One of my favorites is the ability to putt with the flagstick in cup, without penalty.
Normally, striking the flagstick from on the green is a breach of USGA rules #17-3 and carries a two-stroke penalty, but this rule is to be removed for the 2019 playing season.
You might not think this is a big deal but there are many reasons for getting excited about the change.
- The flagstick can act as a stopper for putts that run too fast
How many times have you stroked the ball too hard or had a downhill putt that continued to gain momentum and resulted in your golf ball running over and past the hole?
Now there’s a legal option to help with that.
- Increased chance of holing out
Statistics prove that a ball chipped to the hole is more likely to drop if the flagstick is in.
- Mental benefits
As golfers, we know one of the hardest parts of the game is mental. Having the flagstick in the cup can provide reassurance and confidence to the golfer to hit a firm stroke which increases the chance of holing out.
- Less time needs to be invested in handling the flagstick.
If three minutes are spent on each hole handling the flagstick an entire hour for a full 18-holes could be saved. Decreasing your round by that amount of time is a wonderful benefit.
- Tending is done automatically
For the golfer who has trouble seeing the cup, he often finds himself asking someone to tend the flagstick. No longer will that be necessary.
- Less work by everyone
How many times have you been in a group and that awkward moment arrives when someone needs to tend the flag but no one moves towards it? Or one person never shares in the responsibility of tending the flagstick? Leaving it in lessens this issue.
- One less rule to contend with
As has been the case for decades, hitting the flagstick when on the green, regardless of how far away or whether the impact was intention or not, caused a penalty to the player. With this new change, there’s one less thing to worry about.
I played a round last weekend with my father and took advantage of testing this feature in preparation for the 2019 season, as encouraged by the USGA. Our round did finish quicker and we had to worry less about removing, laying down, moving, holding, watching out for, and re-holing the flagstick, as well as deciding who would handle it each hole. I did worry about the group behind us hitting into the green, given the stick was visible, but this should be a nominal occurrence given proper group spacing and etiquette.
What do you think of this rule change? Let me know. And if you’re looking for other rules knowledge peppered with humor check out The Golf Rules series.