The recent rules change allowing for plaers to putt with the flag in has got many golfers, professional and amateur alike, wondering if they should leave the flagstick in while putting. Bryson DeChambeau, a 5 time PGA Tour winner known for his scientific approach to the game, has famously begun putting with the flagstick in. But is it right for you? GolfLink looks at the pros and cons of putting with the flagstick in.
The main advantage that the flagstick provides is as an easy visual cue. While testing has proved inconclusive, but given the mental game that golf is if it feels like it helps that does count for something. This is something the Dechambeau believes has helped his putting, as he believes the visual cue on longer putts give him a more accurate line. Some golfers also posit that the flagstick helps stop balls that might pop in and out of the hole due to their speed. Others think that off center putts are more likely to stay in the hole as the flagstick helps keep the balls inside the cup. And even on putts hit too hard that still pop in and out of the hole, they believe the flagstick will still slow the ball making for an easier second putt.
The problem with many of the ideas backing up the theory that you should leave the flagstick in on your putts is that they are not backed by science. In reality, the flagstick appears to have no real practical advantage to the vast majority of putts. In fact, especially for putts that are off center, it appears to make it more likely the ball will ricochet out of the hole. In fact, the only real advantage the flagstick provides is on putts that would go beyond 9 feet past the hole that hit dead center. This is, of course, a very specific kind of putt that you are unlikely to hit very often. Dead center putts are rare even for the most skilled players past 10 feet, and a putt traveling fast enough to roll more than 9 feet beyond the hole are a tiny fraction of putts.
There appears to be little or no appreciable aid that putting with the flagstick in provides, except on putts that are very hard hit and aimed at the hole’s dead center. The flagstick may provide a visual aid, but it is best to have a friend or caddy remove the flag after the putt to give you the best chance of getting the ball in the hole.