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Should You Leave the Flagstick In When Putting?

By: | Fri 20 Sep 2019

Should you leave the pin in the hole when putting?

That is a question that golfers have been asking themselves since the New Rules of Golf were introduced in January. Designed to help simplify and speed up the game, putting with the flagstick in has divided opinion on tour and at club level. 

For PGA Tour stars Bryson DeChambeau and Adam Scott, it was an easy decision. Both have competed this season with the pin in the hole over every putt, even the shortest ones, with the analytically minded American stating that it was "statistically proven" to be superior to any other scenario, making it easier to make more putts on the greens.

Putting guru Dave Pelz was another who has studied the topic and believes that golfers should leave the flagstick in, but there are conflicting reports from other seasoned minds. Professor Tom Mase, who has been involved within golf research for decades, found that having the pin in the hole as either a buffer or visual aid had no benefit for 99.9% of putts.

But what have the average golfers done this year? 

Polling the Golfshake audience on Twitter, 64% responded to say that they had putted with the flagstick in this season, taking advantage of the rule change. More interesting, however, were the individual comments that raised key points.

Mixed views there on whether it makes any positive or negative difference to your results on the greens, but one issue that was raised is the apparent damage to the holes.

To further canvas wider opinion, we gathered the views of Golfshake Ambassadors & Staff. 

Rob Treanor concurred with those who were concerned about the damage to the greens, saying: "I have noticed more damage to cups recently when playing later in the day."

Golfshake's Kevin Paver said: "After a busy day of play, the inside of the hole is often damaged from people reaching in for their balls whilst the flagstick is still in there."

But does it help with holing more putts, as the likes of DeChambeau and Scott have reported? Kevin Heggie said: "I found it provided a smaller focus for my putts, especially shorter ones."

Whereas, Kevin Paver has noticed that it has an opposite affect: "I'm not a fan of leaving the flag in as I think it makes it harder to hole the putt. I've seen a few instances with playing partners who have left it in, hit the flagstick and it's kicked out. If the flagstick was out it would have dropped."

For golf pro Ryan Rastall, the prevailing emotion is confusion. "Personally I leave it in on longer putts (over 25 feet) and would take it out as I get closer to the hole. 

"I think leaving it in from short range is seriously weird, feels strange and actually makes the hole appear smaller! 

"When I’ve played in tournaments, I am yet to see a fellow professional leave the flag in from short range and I can’t see it becoming more commonplace.

"On the first tee of my first tournament this year, one of the guys I was paired with said ‘good luck guys because none of us know the rules anymore’ and he was correct! I find myself second guessing every decision I make on the course now and this whole flag in/out dilemma is adding to my despair!"

But does leaving the flagstick in speed up play? It seems that is only the case when all golfers in a group are on the same page.

Matt Holbrook said: "When playing in a competition or a match it is flag out as it has always been. The problem this is causing is that I recently played a match against a guy who wanted the flag in - by the 7th hole it had got to a point where if I had putted first and he wanted it back in, he would have to pick it up and put it back himself!"

Kevin Heggie says: "I played recently with a guy who hadn't converted, and to be honest, it was a pain! He kept taking it out and it did increase the time on the greens and I didn't putt quite as well from short distances.  

"My suggestion to others would be prior to teeing off ask what peoples preferences are, and if someone says they still take it out try to convince them to change!"

Rob Cross breaks it down into two scenarios. "I appreciate that on occasions, to the single golfer and/or a twoball who have the same thoughts, it does work. However, I have been in groups were this has 100% slowed play down! 

"Unless the whole group agree to have it in or out, then it becomes farcical."

The R&A has reported positive feedback in terms of speeding up play, but the views of our golfers suggest that it's a mixed picture, likewise when it comes to improvement on the greens. Whether you have a flagstick in or not is clearly a personal preference, but unless that matches up with your playing partners, then things can become complicated. 

Generally, it's fair to conclude that any benefits have to this point been miniscule. Time will tell whether that changes in future.

The final word goes to Golfshake's Will Trinkwon, who believes that: "As far as I'm concerned, putting with the pin in is sacrilege."

But for now, whether we like it or not, the rules permit it.

What are your views on this subject and have your routines on the golf course changed this year?

What do you think? post your thoughts and feedback on the Golfshake Forum: https://forum.golfshake.com/

Tags: Rules of Golf rules putting daily picks

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