You may have noticed the United States team at the 2018 Ryder Cup is wearing American flag patches on their shirts at Le Golf National in Paris. A keen eye would also notice the American flag is on the players’ right sleeve, and the American flag is facing backwards.
Obviously it wasn’t an intentional error. Ralph Lauren’s Polo RLX made the shirts, and they wouldn’t mix that up. So why is the American flag backwards on the 2018 US Ryder Cup uniforms?
The American flag is backwards because American armed forces regulations requires it to be backwards. When wearing an American flag, such as a patch, on the right sleeve or right side of clothing, the flag is backwards because the stars are required to point forward, as pointing forward signifies honor.
United States Army Regulation states an American flag patch is supposed to be worn such that “the star field faces forward, or to the flag’s own right. When worn in this manner, the flag is facing to the observer’s right, and gives the effect of the flag flying in the breeze as the wearer moves forward.”
Since an American flag patch is not considered an American flag, which would be saluted, drawn to half-staff, etc., the American flag regulations do not apply, which would require Old Glory to fly with the union stars to the left.
This uniform regulation is a fairly recent one in the American military, dating back to the George W. Bush administration in 2005, and it’s not without controversy, particularly among officers. There are plenty of online forum debates concerning the positioning of the American flag patch. However, this is the modern standard.
What’s odd is the commitment of the PGA of America and the US Ryder Cup to using American military uniform regulations for patches. There’s really no need. But, that’s why the American flag patch is backwards.