Tending the Golf Flag: When to Request It, When to Do It for Others

Plus, the Right Way to Tend the Flagstick

One golfer tending the flag for another one who is putting
Tending the flag is something one golfer will do for another as a matter of courtesy, or a caddie will do for his or her golfer. flashfilm/Digital Vision/Getty Images

The protocol for tending the flag, or requesting that another golfer tend the flag for you, is sometimes difficult for beginning golfers to discern. So let's take a closer look.

"Tending the flag" means that someone — your caddie, another golfer — stands next to the flagstick in order to remove it from the cup after you've struck your putt.

Note that (as of the 2019 Rules of Golf edition) a golfer may choose to play to the hole with the flag in or the flag out, at the player's preference. In previous years, it was a penalty on a golfer who played a stroke from the green and whose ball fell into the cup with the flagstick still in it. That is no longer the case, which means that tending the flag probably won't be as common as it used to be.

Still, though, many golfers will prefer to putt at the hole with the flagstick removed. But what if removing the pin makes it hard to see the hole? That's when you'll ask your caddie or another golfer to tend the flag for you. That way, you'll stroke the putt with the flag still in the cup, helping you the hole (the person tending the flag will remove it as soon as you've struck the putt).

Asking for the Flag to Be Tended

When can a golfer ask another golf to tend the flagstick? Whenever you want.

It's OK for the flag to be tended for any shot, from any location on the golf course. But in the real world, players request tending of the flag primarily when attempting long putts (when they might have trouble seeing the hole without the flag). Players sometimes also request the flag be tended when chipping from just off the green.

Tending the Flag for Another Golfer

You should tend the flag for other golfers if:

  • One of your playing partners asks you to; or
  • You offer to tend the flag for another player, and that player says yes.

It's common practice once all golfers are on the putting green for someone in the group to ask, "Hey, anyone need the flag?" If the answer is no, the flagstick can be removed and set aside (place it off the green, out of the line of play).

As a courtesy, players should always tend the flag for one another if it's requested. Just make sure that it really is necessary if you are the one asking for the flag to be tended (which is to say, you can't see the hole without it, or aren't confident in your view of the hole without it).

Also note that if the flagstick is still in the cup and nobody is tending it, and a player putts anyway, do not rush over to remove the flagstick. If you take the flag out of the hole while a ball is in motion on the green, it's a penalty on you if you were not attending the flag to begin with.

But again, a very important update to the Rules of Golf as of 2019: You now have the option to leave the flagstick in when putting.

In the Rules of Golf, situations involving the flagstick are covered in Rule 13-2.

How to Tend the Golf Flagstick

  • Approach the flagstick and take hold of it, standing at arm's length. Be aware of the different players' putting lines, making sure that you are not walking across or standing in anyone else's putting line.
  • Stand still and quietly so as not to distract the player for whom you are tending the flagstick. After the golfer makes contact with the ball and the ball begins rolling toward the cup, lift the flagstick out of the cup.
  • Be sure to lift the pin straight up—don't bend it or pull it toward you. We point this out because that flagstick can become stuck in the cup, and if you pull it out violently or without care it's possible you could pull out the cup liner, too.
  • As the ball approaches, walk away from the hole with the flagstick, again, being careful to avoid stepping in any golfers' putting lines.
  • Take the flagstick to the edge of the green and lay it down off the putting surface. Place the flagstick in a location where it is least likely to get hit by a ball should someone get crazy with their stroke.
  • When play of the hole is completed, retrieve the flagstick and replace it in the cup.