Putting is Easier with the Flagstick In

Despite the USGA/R&A saying:

On balance it is expected that there should be no advantage in being able to putt with the unattended flagstick in the hole…
— USGA.org

We do not believe this to be true. Just watch this video:

Note how easily Mike is able to bang the ball toward the hole, even with the flagstick leaning slightly toward him. He can "take out break" and just hit the flagstick, assured that the ball will slow significantly enough to drop. Many of his putts would have popped up in the air or lipped out entirely had the flagstick not been in the hole.

Unfortunately there is not a lot of data around. Dave Pelz conducted a study many moons ago that concluded:

All told, TruRoller launched thousands of “shots” at the hole, an equal number with the flagstick in and out, on a number of different greens, at five different parts of the hole. Once that was done, PGA Tour veteran Tom Jenkins, the former lead instructor at my short-game schools, did his best to duplicate those tests…

What did I learn? Leave the flagstick in whenever the Rules allow, unless it is leaning so far toward you that the ball can’t fit.

Perhaps most surprising, when the flagstick leans either slightly toward the golfer or away, the odds of it helping to keep the ball in the hole increase: With the flagstick leaning away from the golfer, the hole becomes effectively larger; when the flagstick leans toward the golfer, the ball rebounds downward, again helping shots find the hole.

Only in the most obvious case, when the flagstick is leaning so far toward the golfer that there isn’t enough room for the ball, is leaving the flagstick in a bad idea. … Even if you don’t hit the flagstick dead center, it still will aid you. It proved especially advantageous when chipping downhill and at faster speeds.

I even believe the flagstick should be left in when you’re putting from an inch or two off the green in the fringe. The flagstick will help you make more putts unless it is leaning severely toward you or it’s so windy that it is moving and might knock your ball away.
— Dave Pelz Study on Golf.com

We conducted a similar study using the Perfect Putter in the fall of 2016, and will seek to replicate that study this spring when we can get back out to a golf course.

Putting with the flagstick in, particularly from 3 to 6 feet, makes those putts significantly easier. Because even those knee knockers become almost tap-ins, this makes putting from 30 feet, 40 feet, and further away easier because rather than needing to hit the ball to two feet to guarantee a two-putt, golfers can hit the ball to a circle eight feet in diameter for a virtually assured two-putt.

Share Additional Info

If you are aware of any additional studies, videos, data, or evidence in support of what we all know — that leaving the flagstick in makes it easier to hole putts — please write to us in the comments section on the news portion of the site, or via our Contact page.