If you haven't noticed already this week, the flags are missing from atop the flagsticks at Merion Golf Club for the 2013 U.S. Open.
For the last century, the suburban Philadelphia club has put wicker baskets on top of the flagstick. The derivation of them is unclear, however, the first proof that they were on the course came in 1915 when course superintendent William Flynn applied for a patent for the baskets' design.
On the front nine at the East course, the baskets are painted red. On the back nine, they're orange. Regardless of color, the odds of a golf ball bursting through and landing in one are slim. However, a decision under the Rules of Golf has this scenario covered.
Decision 17/6 handles an akin situation where a ball gets stuck in a flag. Since a flagstick -- and whatever is on top of it -- is a movable obstruction, a ball stuck to it while on the putting surface is placed directly below the flagstick. In this case, that doesn't mean the ball is placed in the hole. Instead, the ball is placed on the edge of the cup for a tap-in.