Golf is known for having strict rules and regulations, with even minor infractions resulting in severe penalties for competitors. Yet when it comes to certain aspects of the game, such as the exact height of flagsticks, golf’s governing body is vague at best. According to the United States Golf Association (USGA), the recommended height for a flagstick is 7 feet, but there is no steadfast height requirement.
A golf flagstick is exactly what its name implies: a flag or banner at the top of a thin stick. The flagstick marks the hole on each putting green. Along with recommending a height of 7 feet, the USGA also advises that a flagstick’s diameter should be no greater than three-quarters of an inch so it won't prevent golf balls from dropping into the hole.
The flagstick, or pin, provides golfers with a visual reference point for the hole. It allows them to judge the distance and location of the hole, no matter where they are on the course. Without a properly positioned flagstick, golfers would have no way of seeing a hole's location before reaching the green. Before taking a stroke, a golfer may have the flagstick attended, removed or raised to assist in seeing the hole's position.
Even though the recommended height is 7 feet, flagsticks often are much taller, with some reaching 12 feet or more. Taller flagsticks might be required on golf courses featuring sloping hills, tall trees and other visual obstructions.
The USGA also mandates that flagsticks must be circular in cross-section, meaning square or triangular poles are prohibited. This shape requirement provides consistency in case golf balls strike the pin. Flagsticks also are not allowed to be padded or made from any shock-absorbent material that could influence ball movement.
Although they might have been in use years earlier, flagsticks weren’t mentioned in the official golf rules, as put forth by the Royal and Ancient Golf Club of St. Andrews, until 1875. In 1882, the official rules called for a flagstick to be removed whenever a ball is within 20 yards of the hole. The rules have always called for the flagstick to be removed if the ball is resting against it. Once removed, if the ball drops in the hole, it counts as a holed ball, without any additional strokes.