Ask the Rules Guy: Flagstick flap

Ask the Rules Guy

Rules Guy,
I hit my approach shot to about three feet and went to tend the pin for my buddy who was further out on the green. My friend hit a great putt, and as it tracked towards the hole I hurriedly pulled out the flagstick. But, in my rush to get out of the way, I managed to knock my own ball off of the green. I had a pretty good idea of where it had been, so I just replaced it. My buddy agreed that I was allowed to replace the ball, but he was sure there must be some sort of penalty involved. Was he right?
— J. Sandeman, Cape May, N.J.

I'm guessing you need to spend more time on the course, since flagstick control is one of the few skills that is very difficult to master at the driving range. You had the right instinct to replace your ball after knocking it out of the way, but your friend's instincts were even better. According to Rule 18-2a, causing your ball to move (even accidently) is enough to incur a penalty of one stroke. There are a few exceptions (including searching for a ball or moving an obstruction), but, unfortunately for you, playing croquet with the flagstick isn't one of them.