There is no such thing as an "illegal" hole location.
If you've ever watched a PGA Tour event, you may have wondered why the pins are placed where they are. It's not because the rules dictate where to place the pins -- there are no rules for pin placement. The U.S. Golf Association does, however, offer several guidelines and recommendations. Based on several factors, golf course superintendents and tournament officials decide on locations that will give the fairest results.
Course Design Considerations
Course superintendents study the design of the hole and the types and lengths of the required approach shots when deciding of the best pin location. Weather conditions, such as wind or rain, also play a part in the decision. In wet conditions the holding qualities of the green could change. USGA rules state that a sufficient amount of green must be available between the hole and the front and side edges of the green to allow for the required shot. For example, if the hole's design requires a long iron to make the green, the pin should be located deeper and up to seven paces from the edges. If a short chip shot is required, the pin location would typically be four paces from the edge. For holes designed with a sand trap at the edge of the green or a steep slope away from the edge, the pin should be located more than four paces from the edge.
Putting Green Considerations
Pin locations must be balanced throughout the course with respect to the front, rear, left, right and center of the green. Too many left and right locations would require golfers to hit many drawn or hooked shots, which could be a disadvantage to golfers who have not mastered these shots. Holes should not be placed in "tricky" parts of the green or on extreme slopes where the ball would gain speed. Course superintendents choose a hole location so that no matter where the golfer is putting from, it's possible for him to hit the ball and have it stop within 2 feet of the hole. Course superintendents typically use a hole placement rotation when setting up the course -- six pin placements in the front third, six in the center and six in back of the green with nine pins on the left and nine on the right side of the greens.
USGA rules state that the pin must be placed in an area where the ground is as level as possible with a uniform grade. It should avoid old hole plugs and ball mark areas until these are completely healed. The hole's outer diameter must not exceed 4 1/4 inches, the depth is a minimum of 4 inches and the liner must sit 1 inch below the putting surface. As a general rule, the pin placement must be at least four to five paces from the edge of the green.
A special hole cutter tool is used to install the pin. The installer pushes the tool into the ground as vertically as possible. A plug of dirt is removed from the ground and stored inside the sleeve of the tool. The hole liner from the pin's current location is removed and inserted into the new hole. A setting tool is then placed over the hole and is pressed down on top of the liner to ensure it is set at the proper depth and to press the turf around the new hole flat, level with the surrounding turf. The cutter tool is inserted into the old hole and a lever on the tool is engaged to eject the plug into the hole. A knife or pick is used to blend the plug's edges into the surrounding area, debris is brushed away and the flagstick in inserted into the new hole.
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