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Flagstick in or out - What do you do?


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Golf Digest just came out with an article claiming that 99.9% of the time, flagstick out is the correct play: 

https://www.golfdigest.com/story/the-science-behind-why-the-flagstick-should-be-pulled-999-percent-of-the-time?utm_medium=social&utm_source=twitter&utm_campaign=golfdigest

MGS said you should leave it in:

What do you do and why?

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I leave it in.  I did that before COVID so it was easy for me when we couldn't touch the flagstick.  I do play with some people that want it pulled, and I've gone ahead and putted with it out when it was my turn with poor results.  I actually think that the vertical reference of the stick helps with my alignment.  Now I always put the stick back in or have someone else do it before I putt.

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I've recently begun pulling it.  I took up golf last year when leaving it in was still the norm but I've noticed that many of my putts bang off the stick rather than go in the hole.  My make percentage has gone up as a result.  And frankly, the sound of the ball rattling in the hole is pretty satisfying.

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I like having it in.  Playing way back when, when the norm was to pull it, I would have preferred it in and when I had the chance to play alone, I always left it.  I don't see a need to pull it and for me, that gives me a slight bit of a confidence boost that if I hit the ball square and with a stroke that will end up a little past the hole, the ball will fall.

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Long putts in....short putts out.

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I didn't really care until two recent league rounds.  I left it in for two short putts that I hit firm to reduce break and had them bounce off the pin and lip out.  After the second time I took it as a sign to pull the pin from then on for shorter putts.  I will continue to leave it in for longer lag putts for the same alignment aid reason as @Kenny B .

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Other than one guy I play with, we all leave it in, unless the pin is clearly leaning such that it could interfere with the ball going in. That happens less than once a round, but occasionally. I do not remember a single putt that didn’t go in because the pin was in, and it’s helped with downhill or other putts with excess pace…

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I'm also in the "long putts in, short putts out" camp. A lot of the time, approaching 50%, the stick does not look straight to me. Maybe it's loose in the cup, or the cup isn't cut straight, or it's just my weak eyes, but it messes with my head. My brain gets in my way often enough anyway, I don't need any more reasons for doubt.

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In.  
1) As a walker who averages 14,000 steps on my course, I was leaving it in long before COVID or the rule change - just to save a few additional steps.

2) When the rocket scientist Dave Pelz says leave it in, leave it in… over time you’ll make more  

 

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If a putt is going the right speed, the flagstick cannot help, it can only hurt.  When a putt is going to fast to stay in the hole, the flagstick can only help, it can keep the putt closer to the hole after a collision.  So for shorter putts, when I know that I'm not going to race it 10' past, I take it out.  For longer putts, especially downhillers that can easily get away, I leave it in.

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9 hours ago, GrumpyGolf said:

I like having it in.  Playing way back when, when the norm was to pull it, I would have preferred it in and when I had the chance to play alone, I always left it.  I don't see a need to pull it and for me, that gives me a slight bit of a confidence boost that if I hit the ball square and with a stroke that will end up a little past the hole, the ball will fall.

How far back is "way back when"?  From 1956 to 1968 there was no penalty for hitting the flagstick when putting.  

I have had a few putts with the flagstick in that did not go in when I thought they should have, but I'm also fairly sure that the flagstick has also help a few go in.  I will take the flagstick out when the wind is moving it around or when the shadow of the flag waving is in the path of the putt.

As I said earlier, the flagstick is a reference for me that helps with line and speed.  Remember, I look at the hole when I stroke the ball.

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1 hour ago, DaveP043 said:

If a putt is going the right speed, the flagstick cannot help, it can only hurt.  

That's not what the GD article says... if the ball is going the right speed, 100% of the balls go in the cup whether the flagstick is in or out.

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I play a lot of solo rounds, so my general habit is to leave it in. It's not so much to save steps since I like to pace the length of the putt off and get a feel for the break, but it's to save time pulling it, laying it down, picking it up, and putting it back in. 

If I'm playing with someone else, I usually defer to what they want to do. 

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1 minute ago, sirchunksalot said:

I play a lot of solo rounds, so my general habit is to leave it in. It's not so much to save steps since I like to pace the length of the putt off and get a feel for the break, but it's to save time pulling it, laying it down, picking it up, and putting it back in. 

If I'm playing with someone else, I usually defer to what they want to do. 

Ditto. It stays in on 98 percent of the holes I play. I do occasionally pull it if I feel like it's leaning enough that it could effect the ball going in.

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I don't care one way or the other.  I will do whatever the rest of the foursome wants to do.  What I find funny is when someone who's away wants it out, then the next guy wants it back in.

I've never had or seen a flagstick prevent the ball that was going to go in the hole not go in because the stick was in.  If it's deflected off the pin, it was probably going too fast to fall in the hole, anyway.  Just my observations during play.

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8 minutes ago, Kenny B said:

That's not what the GD article says... if the ball is going the right speed, 100% of the balls go in the cup whether the flagstick is in or out.

Not exactly, it says that for putts that hit the flagstick pretty much dead center.  For the group of tests with the ball going 4.5 feet past (pretty good speed, not perfect), and off-center entries (3 times more likely than dead center), the conclusion is:

"In total, the make percentage with the flagstick out was 90 percent. The average with a flagstick in was 45 percent, as high as 61 percent with the fiberglass pin and as low as 36 percent with the dual-diameter pin. In general then, a putt that would have struck the flagstick off-center is twice as likely to go in with the flagstick out as it is with the flagstick in."

 

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11 hours ago, JerryB said:

I've recently begun pulling it.  I took up golf last year when leaving it in was still the norm but I've noticed that many of my putts bang off the stick rather than go in the hole.  My make percentage has gone up as a result.  And frankly, the sound of the ball rattling in the hole is pretty satisfying.

I loooove the sound of the ball falling in the cup.  It’s the same for me as when I played basketball and a swish sound.

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30 minutes ago, DaveP043 said:

Not exactly, it says that for putts that hit the flagstick pretty much dead center.  For the group of tests with the ball going 4.5 feet past (pretty good speed, not perfect), and off-center entries (3 times more likely than dead center), the conclusion is:

"In total, the make percentage with the flagstick out was 90 percent. The average with a flagstick in was 45 percent, as high as 61 percent with the fiberglass pin and as low as 36 percent with the dual-diameter pin. In general then, a putt that would have struck the flagstick off-center is twice as likely to go in with the flagstick out as it is with the flagstick in."

 

See that's the problem.  Who hits the ball 4 1/2 feet past the hole... especially on short putts?  The conclusion is that:

"...for putts rolling at a pace equal to 2 1⁄2 feet past the hole, 100 percent of putts went in. That was true regardless of the scenario: flagstick in, flagstick out, straight in or off-center and regardless of flagstick type."

My putts are in the 1-2 foot range past the hole on most putts.  Sure, for long putts I could go further by, but I usually end of just short rather than way long.  At those distances my chance of hitting the hole is very small anyway.

If you configure the test with specific parameters, it's easy to come to the conclusion you want...

Statistics.jpeg.032cbb9dd7fec26a966ecf433b0b2244.jpeg

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I tend to do whatever the folks I’m playing with want to do.  Personally, on putts inside of 15ft, I like to pull it.  If it’s longer and there is a bigger chance of me blasting it past, I tend to leave it in.  But inside of 15ft, I’d hope my speed is pretty good for it to be a non-factor.  If I (personally) have to rely on the pin as a backboard, I need to work on my speed control. 

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