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Putting Greens
Purpose of Rule: Rule 13 is a specific Rule for putting greens. Putting greens are specially prepared for playing the ball along the ground and there is a flagstick for the hole on each putting green, so certain different Rules apply than for other areas of the course.
Putting Greens

Actions Allowed or Required on Putting Greens

Improvements Allowed on Putting Green
  • See Clarification 8.1b/6 for when damage partially on and partially off putting green may be repaired.
Damaged Hole Is Part of Damage on the Putting Green
Damage to the hole is covered by Rule 13.1c as part of damage on a putting green. The player may repair a damaged hole unless the damage is natural wear that Rule 13.1c  does not allow to be repaired. For example, if the hole is damaged in removing the flagstick, it may be repaired by the player under Rule 13.1c, even if the damage has changed the dimensions of the hole. However, if a hole has been damaged and the player cannot repair the damage (such as the hole cannot be made round again) or where natural wear that the player may not repair results in the hole not being round, the player should request that the Committee repair it.
Player May Request Help from Committee When Unable to Repair Damage On Putting Green
If a player is unable to repair damage on the putting green, such as an indentation from a club or an old hole plug that has sunk below the surface, the player may request that the Committee repair the damage. If the Committee is unable to repair the damage and the player's ball lies on the putting green, the Committee could consider providing relief to the player under Rule 16.1 by defining the damaged area as ground under repair.
Ball Must Be Replaced If It Moves After Placing a Ball to Take Relief
A player's ball is on the putting green and they have interference from an abnormal course condition. The player decides to take free relief under Rule 16.1d. If the nearest point of complete relief is on the putting green, once the ball is placed at this point, it is treated as if it has been lifted and replaced under Rule 13.1d(2). For example, a player's ball is in temporary water on the putting green. They decide to take relief and place a ball on the spot of the nearest point of complete relief, which is on the putting green. While the player is preparing to make the stroke, natural forces cause the ball to move. The player must replace the ball on the spot of the nearest point of complete relief. But when the nearest point of complete relief is in the general area and the ball moves due to natural forces after being placed at this point, it must be played from its new spot unless Rule 9.3, Exception 2 applies. 
Deliberately Testing Any Putting Green Is Not Allowed
Rule 13.1e prohibits a player from taking two specific actions on the putting green or a wrong green for the purpose of finding out information about how a ball might roll on it. It does not prohibit a player from taking other actions even when done for the purpose of testing or from inadvertently taking the prohibited actions. An example of an action that is a breach of Rule 13.1e is when:
  • A player roughens or scrapes the grass on the putting green to determine which way the grain is growing.
Examples of actions that are not a breach of Rule 13.1e are when:
  • A player concedes their opponent's next putt and hits the ball away on the same line of play as the player may subsequently use but does not do so deliberately to learn information about the putting green.
  • A player places the palm of their hand on the surface of the putting green on their line of play to determine the wetness of the putting green. While the player is doing so to test the putting green, this action is not prohibited under Rule 13.1e.
  • A player rubs a ball on the putting green to clean off mud.

The Flagstick

Player Has the Right to Leave Flagstick in Position Preceding Group Left It
A player is entitled to play the course as they find it, which includes the position in which the preceding group left the flagstick. For example, if the preceding group replaced the flagstick in a position that is leaning away from the player, the player has the right to play with the flagstick in that position should they find this advantageous. If another player or caddie centres the flagstick in the hole, the player may keep it in that position or have the flagstick restored to its previous position.
Unattended Flagstick Removed Without Player’s Authority May Be Replaced
If a player chooses to play with the flagstick in the hole and another player takes the flagstick out of the hole without the player's authority, it may be put back in the hole while the player's ball is in motion. However, if the other player's action was a breach of Rule 13.2a(4), they do not avoid a penalty by replacing the flagstick.
Player May Make Stroke While Holding Flagstick
Rule 13.2b(1) allows a player to make a one-handed stroke while holding the flagstick with the other hand. However, the player may not use the flagstick to steady themself while making a stroke (Rule 4.3a). For example, a player may:
  • Remove the flagstick from the hole with one hand before putting and continue to hold it while making a one-handed stroke with the other hand.
  • Attend their own flagstick in the hole with one hand before and while putting with the other hand. While or after making the one-handed stroke, they may remove the flagstick from the hole, but must not deliberately allow the ball in motion to hit the flagstick.

Ball Overhanging Hole

Meaning of Reasonable Time for Player to Reach Hole
Determining the limits of a reasonable time to reach the hole depends on the circumstances of the stroke and includes time for a player's natural or spontaneous reaction to the ball not going into the hole. For example, a player may have played the shot from well off the putting green and it may take them several minutes to reach the hole while other players play their shots and all walk to the putting green. Or, the player may need to take an indirect route to the hole by walking around the line of play of another player on the putting green.
What to Do When Player’s Ball Overhanging Hole Moves When Player Removes Flagstick
After the flagstick is removed by the player, if the player's ball overhanging the hole moves, they must proceed as follows:
  • If it is known or virtually certain that the player's removal of the flagstick caused the ball to move, the ball is replaced on the lip of the hole and Rule 13.3b applies. The ball is treated as coming to rest and the waiting time under Rule 13.3a no longer applies. There is no penalty to the player since the flagstick is a movable obstruction (Rule 15.2a(1)).
  • If the player's removal of the flagstick did not cause the ball to move, and the ball falls into the hole, Rule 13.3a applies.
  • If the player's ball moved due to natural forces to a new spot not overhanging the hole and not because the flagstick was removed, there is no penalty and the ball must be played from its new spot (Rule 9.3).