With the new rules of golf much is being discussed, but probably no rule has caused as much discussion than the one allowing golfers to leave the pin in while putting. So what will you do? Will you leave the pin in our out? And is there any research that can help us decide on our own games?  It is a great question and discussion. Let’s tee it up!
CLICK HERE: for Dave Pelz Research Article

Listen to this golf podcast episode at https://anchor.fm/dataaxisgolf/episodes/The-Flagstick—-In-Or-Out-e2sse1

It is good to have golf back on in 2019 and to see all the new rules implemented. It’s been interesting to watch for sure. I saw Rory McIlroy make a drop from his knees. That wasn’t awesome. That definitely looks awkward. Hopefully, they’ll look at that and fix it. I’ve seen a few players come out against the new way to drop. I think Bryson DeChambeaucame out and said he thought it was a little odd. So, the dropping method from knee height has been very weird to see live and hopefully that dies soon.

I don’t know how many of you have played Kapalua or been to Kapalua, but Kapalua is an amazing golf course. It’s different from anything else I have ever played. It just doesn’t compare to anything else. It is such a huge place. It is like a massive park. Some of the fairways are football fields wide. They just go on forever and forever, which leads to a lot of interesting shots and a lot of interesting ways to play each hole. It is just a massive ballpark, which it needs to be because the winds can blow like crazy up there. The course is up on a hill up above the ocean. It’s incredible. It’s really an amazing place, amazing scenery, and landscapes. It was quite an experience to play and I’d love to get back and do it again someday.

It is always fun to watch the PGA Tour players play a course that you have played before. It is kind of changes things when you’re watching the tournament on TV and you know exactly what they’re looking at and what they’re facing and the challenges of any particular hole. It’s just fun to watch. It has been crazy to see where some of the players are missing their shots because those are distances, I can’t even imagine from the up tees where we play, but from the tips? Mercy! But to watch them drop from the knee has been goofy, just awkward.

I heard somebody say, I think it was Bryson DeChambeau, said he thought they should make it allowable to drop from your knee to your shoulder, and anywhere in between. So those who want to drop it from their knee and try to make it so the ball doesn’t bounce and roll away to get the best lie possible, they can take advantage of that, and those that don’t want to look stupid can drop it from their waist. Hopefully, that rule gets corrected pretty quickly because it is making the tour players look completely ridiculous out there.

Should You Leave The Flagstick In Or Out?

The most popular topic we’ve heard discussed with the new rules in the first tournament of 2019 is whether you should leave the flagstick in or out when you are putting. And it’s actually a fascinating discussion because there is some real data on this which is interesting.

I saw that a Brandel Chamblee came out and said he thought everybody should leave the flagstick in when putting. And if you go to golfchannel.com, there’s a video of Brandel talking about the rule. But the strange thing is after they asked him, “hey, why did you change your mind in the last 24 hours?” And he answered that he had “looked at the data” but the weird thing was he didn’t ever refer to the data and where the research data actually came from and that seemed odd. I don’t know why he wouldn’t do that? I don’t know if it’s because the researcher isn’t a part of the Golf Channel staff and he doesn’t want to give him any notoriety. But Dave Pelz is the guy who actually did all the research on this and he did it back in the early nineties. It is weird Brandel he wouldn’t refer to Dave Pelz.

Dave Pelz actually did quite an extensive bit of research on this particular topic. Dave Pelz did the research for golf.com. It was easy to find, I just did a quick Google search and found that Dave Pelz actually wrote another article about this topic in 2007. It’s right there on the first page of the results on whether to leave the flagstick in or out. And I’ll go ahead and post a link to this article in the description of this podcast so you can all go take a look at it.

It’s an interesting test. I remember it from early in the nineties, but I didn’t really remember the whole basis behind the test how the test was actually done, but just that is was better to leave the flagstick in. For this test, there was really no practical way to set it up and test it from many different distances and conditions because of the inconsistencies of the greens so they set it up to two feet away. They set it up and used what he called a TruRoller, which is a device that he created to put a perfect putt on a ball. And they just did a number of different tests, various speeds, in fact, he says they did thousands and thousands of putts and they tried uphill and downhill, side-hill. They hit the flag dead center, they hit glancing blows off it. They tried every possible scenario they could do with the pin in and with the pin out.

They just flat out did the research, just gathered data to thoroughly check this whole thing out. Now at the end of the research, Dave says there no question, that it was statistically significant that we should leave the flagstick in when we putt.

But what was missing here in the research is just how much more effective it is to leave the pin in. He didn’t give us any information on if it’s a two to one advantage, or 30 percent more likely for putt go in, etc. We didn’t data on how much more likely a putt is to go in at varying speeds, uphill vs. downhill, etc. So that was a little disappointing, the lack of the specifics in the data, but Dave assured us that it is advantageous for us to leave the pin.

I personally have left the pin in for most shots I possibly, since the research, except when the pin was leaning towards me. If the pin was leaning towards me from a little breeze or something that I wanted nothing to do with it, because in my mind it seems like the leaning pin would make the hole smaller, so tougher for the ball to get into the hole. But Dave Pell actually says in his research that it shows you have the biggest advantage keeping the pin in, if the pin is tilting away from you or if the pin is actually tilting a little towards you. When it leans towards you it acts as a backstop and redirects the ball down into the hole. So definitely leave the if the pin if it is leaning a little towards you or away from you, well, I mean we should leave the pin in for all shots, with the only caveat being if the pin is leaning so far towards you that it has made the hole so small that it is impossible for the ball to fit into the hole. So, if the wind is blowing that hard, that is when we would need to take the pin out. That is really the only occasion when you would take the pin. the pin in.

I thought it was sort of funny. He kind of said that within the rules of golf, if you walk up to a green and the pin hasn’t been put back into the hole properly and is leaning a little bit towards your ball. You don’t have to go center of the pin, you can leave it as is. Within the rules of golf, you have two options. Leave it as is or go up and center it back into the hole. So, his point was, hey, if it’s leaning towards you leave it leaning and putt with it that way, and that is well within your rights to do so. We don’t have the exact data and how much more effective it is, but it is more effective. I trust Dave Pelz. I think he does good research. He even discussed how he backed this research up by having a golf pro come out and make thousands and thousands of putts himself to see if they could duplicate the results of the initial research and although it is not as precise, but again it showed that even with a human performing the test there still was significantly more putts that went in when the putt was in rather than out.

Why Is It Better To Keep The Flagstick In?

In another totally different article that is more recent, Dave Pelz talks about why it is better to keep the flagstick in. I thought this discussion was also fascinating. He said that because the flagstick is made out of fiberglass, which is a material that actually absorbs the hit from the golf ball, takes energy away, and slows the golf ball down. It literally absorbs it and when you slow the golf ball down, then you have essentially increased the effects of gravity which pulls the ball more readily into the hole. If we used a different type of material to make a pin, like steel or something that was harder, that would actually repel the ball, then I think the results of these tests could be quite a bit different. But as long as we continue to use fiberglass, which we will due to the flexibility needed to deal with the winds, we will enjoy a benefit by keeping the flagstick in. Pretty cool stuff, based on data and that’s what we’re all about here at Data Axis Golf, so the bottom-line is leaving the pin in is an advantage, so putt with it of in there.

Brandel Chamblee comments were interesting. He believes that by the end of the year all Tour players will just leave the pin in, but that it’s going to take some time for folks to adjust to it. And I agree with that completely. I’ve got a very good friend who’s an incredible player. He’s got to be one of the best players I know, and I enjoy playing with them immensely. He always brings out my best game as he’s somewhat competitive, but in a very good-natured way. We really enjoy playing together and we really enjoy watching one another hit cool shots.

He’s a big guy and he hits it a mile. My game is a little different. I’m a little shorter off the tee than he is, but I’m a little more precise around the greens and have a better short game. So, we have these really cool matches that go back and forth the whole round. Really good natured, a lot of fun. Anyway, he will not, absolutely will not hit a ball onto the green from anywhere around the green with the pin in. It simply doesn’t matter if he’s on the fringe in a sand trap, or in thick rough. He has to have the pin out, and it’s to the point where it can get annoying, I mean even like 70 feet away, he still wants the pin out, but this is just the way he plays. It is going to be very interesting to see if he changes when he knows the research if he actually allows the pin to be left in.

He’s one of those guys where even if he’s outside of everyone else, he wants the pin out, and then all other guys want the pin back in, so you have to go back and forth. He creates those situations that actually do slow play down considerably. It’ll be interesting to see if he makes the adjustment. It will be interesting to see how quickly the pros make the adjustment. I mean they play for a lot of money, so you would assume that when they see the data that putting is easier with the pin in and are convinced of it, they will make the adjustment to leave the pin in. The data are pretty clear. I trust Dave Pelz, he does good research, so let’s leave the pin in. It’s a benefit, so let’s play better golf in 2019! Thanks for joining us here today. Remember better data means better golf and that means leaving the pin in. Thank you!