100% Mental Golf: The Flagstick

No golf this week, so I thought I would write about the flagstick.  Yes, that new rule this year, that you can leave the flagstick in the hole when you putt has created a lot of discussion.   These articles and videos on the subject have range from it helps 99% of the time, to it hurts,  to it makes no difference, and just about everything in between.  Some articles have many rules on when to leave the pin in and take it out.   These rules range from the type of putt,  to the distance from the hole, various conditions, and the way the pin may be leaning. Obviously the PGA tour pros have not embraced the rule change.   Only two players , Adam Scott and Bryson DeChambeu, seem to leave the pin in almost all the time.  Every once in awhile you will see somebody leave the pin in on a very long downhill putt.   But almost all the time the pros leave the pin out. In fact Justin Thomas says he couldn’t take himself seriously if he left the pin in.  I don’t even know what that means but it’s just another reason pros leave the pin out.  There have been some studies done to see if there is an advantage to leaving in the pin.

The biggest study was done by Dave Pelz in 1999 and explained in his book  Short Game Bible.  Quoting from the book ” What did I learn?  All  the evidence points to one simple rule: Leave the flagstick whenever the Rules allow, unless it is leaning so far toward you that the ball can’t fit “. I am not going through the study, but it was a very in depth study, where there were different types of greens used, and man and machine were used to role the putts. Since the rule change there have been more studies done and some have not come to same conclusions.  Here is the one limiting factor in my view of all the studies. In order to get the ball to hit the pin all the putts are rolled from a relative short distance. Pelz did not think this was all that important but I am not too sure.

When the choice to leave the pin in was only for shots off the green, my favorite golf announcer Ken Venturi use to have this well known saying, when a pro was chipping. If he takes the pin out he is trying to make it, and if he leaves it in, he is just trying to get it close.  Even though Ken was my favorite golf broadcaster, I often wondered what that saying meant and was it really true.  But it may give us a clue as to why the pros don’t leave the pin in more when they putt. My conclusion is this.   With the pin out of the cup, the hole looks or appears to be bigger than when the pin is in the hole.  So leaving the pin out when you putt again helps make golf 100 % Mental . You are going against the odds that the pin will help you when it is taken out, but most pros do it anyway because mentally they are more comfortable putting that way.

My own view on this is the jury is still out.  I am not going into great detail why I feel this way.  I feel there are some problems with the data that has been collected on this, from all sides.  I do not feel I am alone, when there have been times when I have seen one of my shots or a playing companion’s ball hit the pin and not gone in.  I immediately think that the ball might have gone in if the pin had not been in.  It’s that ball that seems to pinch into the pin, vibrates for an instant and then comes out.  For now I am leaving the pin in for all putts until I feel that it causes more misses than makes.  My exceptions for taking the pin out.  The extreme lean and if conditions are very windy. Some people are of the opinion that by the end of this year you will see more pros use the pin than not use the pin.  I think it will be at least 2 years before  we ever see that.

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