woman tending golf flag on course

What to Know About Tending The Golf Flag

If you are new to golf and learning the ropes, or you’ve been playing for a while but are still getting the feel for things, then you might have some questions about tending the golf flag. Learning these protocols and knowing when to request it be done for you can be difficult. However, in this post we will go over proper flag etiquette including when to tend to the flag and when to ask that someone tend to it for you.

We are going to look at what tending the flag means, when to ask for the flag to be tended, and when you should tend the flag for other players. This is important to understand so that you can ensure that everyone has a successful and entertaining game. Let’s take a look. 

What is Tending the Flag?

In golf, tending the flag means that someone - either you, your caddie, or another golfer - stands next to the flagstick (the flag sticking out of the hole) and removes it after the person playing has made their putt. Sounds simple, right? Well, there is a little more to it than that. 

You see, a golfer can choose to putt with the flag either in or out. And the person tending the flag needs to know exactly when to remove the flagstick from the hole so as not to give an unfair advantage (or take one away) from the golfer.

As of 2019, a golfer may choose to play a hole with the flagstick in or out. In previous years, the golfer would have received a penalty for not having the flagstick removed. However, now it is the golfer's choice so they can choose to leave the flagstick in and play that way. Why? Well, having the flag in makes it easier to see the hole, which makes it easier to aim your putt. This is why having someone tend the flag makes everything much easier. The flagstick is removed after you have made the putt so that you are able to line up accordingly.

When Should You Ask for the Flag to be Tended?

Though it is not required to have the flag tended during a golf game, many people will still want to do so. So when can you ask someone to tend the flag for you? At any point during the game, that’s when! It doesn’t matter the type of shot or the location. You may request that the flag be tended to at any time. However, you will want to make sure that it is necessary because you have trouble seeing the hole from your position.

Some times that a player may request that the flag be tended to are when they have a long putt. This makes the hole easier to spot and the putt easier to be lined up. Players may also request that the flag be tended when they are chipping the ball off the green. 

When Should the Ball be Tended for Another Player?

There are times in a golf game when you may be tending the flag for other players. You should tend the flag for others when:

  • Another golfer requests it
  • You offer to tend the flag for another golfer and they say yes 

Flag tending is a courtesy to other golfers, just as it is a courtesy to you. If someone requests that you tend the flag for them, remember that you may need the favor returned, so make sure to do so. If you offer to tend the flag and the other golfer says no, then you can lay the flag to the side. However, you should always ask first. It is also important to note that if the flag remains in the hole and a golfer makes their putt, don’t rush over to tend the flag. Leave it where it is. They chose to putt with it in so it is not necessary to remove it.

How do you Tend the Flag?

Tending the flag can’t be done however you want to. There is a certain way to go about it. Let’s take a look at how to properly tend a golf flag.

  • Stand at arm’s length from the flag and grab hold. Be sure that you are not in anyone’s putting line.
  • Stand still and be sure not to distract the person putting.
  • Once the person putting has made contact with the ball, then you can lift the flagstick out of the cup. Be sure to lift it straight up because it can become stuck otherwise, or you could pull out the liner.
  • As the ball approaches the hole, walk away with the flagstick. Again, be sure not to walk in anyone’s putting line.
  • Place the flagstick on the edge of the green, where it is not likely to get hit by any golf balls.
  • After the play is complete, return the flagstick to its hole.

Some Important Things To Remember

  • Unless the golfer consents, no one should touch the flagstick. It should remain where it is unless specified otherwise.
  • If the golf ball hits the flagstick being tended, the golfer incurs a penalty.
  • If the ball ends up pinned, when the flagstick is removed, if the ball falls into the hole, it counts as in. If it does not, then it is placed on the lip of the hole and they must take another putt. 

Tending the golf flag is an important part of the game. You must know the proper etiquette that should take place during a golf game, when to ask for the flag to be tended, and when to do it for someone else. Always make sure to take the things mentioned above into consideration and remember, tending to a flag can be a courtesy to others. One that you will want returned to you at another point in the game.

Always be a courteous player and enjoy the game! But also make sure the game is enjoyable for other golfers. 


  • AC Villarreal

    @Lesley: After 2019 it is no longer a penalty to sink a putt with the flag in. Some players actually use the flagstick as an advantage, almost like a “backstop” allowing them to hit firmer putts. So, while “tending” the flag, the individual may leave the flag in place, to gain this advantage. Purists, however, would suggest that using the flagstick in this way is “cheating.” The USGA, and Bryson Dechambeau, disagrees.

  • Jim Barrett

    Can I see the answer to Lesley Catchpole’s question? When tending the flag, do you have to take the flag out of the hole after the putt is hit? If so, what is the penalty?

  • Lesley Catchpole

    When on the green a player asked for the flag to be tended , the lady tending flag did not take flag out after ball went in hole…she was still tending it. Is this a penalty?

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