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Imagine playing basketball without a backboard?

A study of over 1,000,000 simulated basketball shots done by engineers at North Carolina State University showed basketball players shot 20% better by using the backboard. Or as Natalie Morris of NetBall says, “No contest. A backboard is cheating in my opinion.”

As golfers, we are looking for every advantage we can get to shooting lower scores. However, most prefer not to cheat or break traditions to get that advantage. Thanks to USGA rule change 13.2a(2) leaving the flagstick (aka backboard) in while you putt is no longer considered cheating or breaking tradition.

So, now that you can leave the pin in, naturally the next question is should you leave it in?

FLAG IN (or) FLAG OUT?

With such a potentially game-changing topic with no definitive answers, we needed test this inside the MyGolfSpy LAB. We want to know once and for all, should you leave the pin in or pull out.

Even the guys that do this for a living are split on the topic. Bryson Dechambeau says he will be leaving the pin in whenever he can. Justin Thomas said, “I can’t really take myself seriously if I kept the pin in.” And Phil? Well, Phil often has his caddie tend the pin from 70 or more yards out. Who’s right?

Is it possible that by leaving the flag in it will help all golfers make more putts and even improve their misses?

Let’s find out.

HOW WE TEST

The purpose of this study was to gain an understanding of the resulting effect that exists when a golfer leaves the flag in vs. flag out during a round of golf.  This was done to ultimately determine the make vs. miss % and the resulting distance of putts that missed.

In our initial research it was found that 1) SPEED – no matter the distance of the putt or whether it is downhill, sidehill, uphill or flat…it is the speed at which the ball arrives at the hole which affects the result 2) COR – the coefficient of restitution of the flagstick (stiffness of the flag) can impact the results. The stiffer the flag, the less energy it absorbs from the ball.

There are two flag types that make up the majority golfers will encounter at their local golf course. Flag type #1 is less rigid and absorbs more energy from the ball on contact. Flag type #2 is more rigid and absorbs less energy from the ball on contact.

  • We tested the two most common type of flagsticks
  • We rolled putts with the pin in and pin out
  • We tested both center strikes and off-center strikes on the flagstick
  • We tested with the flag leaning forward and back
  • To guarantee the most reliable results we used a putting machine called the Perfect Putter
  • Each test was run at three different speeds
  • We tested with putts that would roll 3 ft, 6ft and 9 ft past the hole
  • We collected the resulting distance of missed putts
  • We recorded both the make and miss % from all putts at all distances

THE DATA

OBSERVATIONS

  • Leaving the flagstick is always an advantage vs. taking the flagstick out
  • Leaving the flagstick in also keeps the ball closer to the hole on misses
  • The less rigid flagstick has the highest make % and least distance after a miss
  • The most rigid flagstick is still an advantage for both makes and misses vs. flagstick out
  • Dead center strikes on the flagstick provided the best make % while leaving the shortest remaining distance to the hole on misses
  • Off-center strikes on the flag still provided a higher make % vs. flagstick out
  • While the advantage is not as significant leaning the stick forward (toward the golfer) is still an advantage vs. taking the flag out

VERDICT

Don’t let the tradition of pulling the flag out while you putt get in the way of shooting lower scores.

Leave the pin in.

“It’s one small step for golfers, one giant leap for golf.”