iacas

Challenge - Flagstick Out/In Putting

53 posts in this topic

I'll keep this short and sweet. I'm issuing a challenge to everyone here that can get out to a practice putting green and do this.

  1. Warm up putting around the green to get a feel for the speeds.
  2. Find a hole with a little slope to it. Not flat, but nothing crazy either (3% or so is fine). The putt should have 4-5' around it in all directions on the putting green.
  3. Put 12 balls down at the 12 clock positions and 4-5' away from the hole.
  4. Putt them toward the hole and count how many of the 12 you make.
  5. Put the flagstick in. Go to another hole and hit a few putts to get used to how firmly you can hit the putts and how little break you have to play.* Try to hit the ball with enough pace to go about 4' past the hole only. (Make sure the flagstick is pretty straight up and down, and ideally, it's somewhat like those available on the course. Bonus points if you can borrow a flagstick like those used on the course for your tests. Ask the head pro or superintendent.)
  6. Put 12 balls down in the same spots and repeat the process with the flagstick in. Count the number of putts you make.
  7. Repeat once or twice if you're not bored. This will get you 12, 24, or 36 putts of each type.
  8. Post your results here in this thread. Be honest. Also post your observations, like "I found it difficult to play so little break and missed a few putts high with the flagstick in." Or whatever you feel or think or observe.

* I am allowing a brief amount of practice before both types - warm up (practicing) before you putt without the flagstick, and then warm up (practice) just how firmly you have to hit putts and how little break you have to play with the flagstick in. Again, 4' past the hole only. My advice is NOT to hit the ball with 10' past capture speed.

Even if a bunch of you hit 72 putts each (36 to each configuration), this won't be too much more than anecdotal evidence, but I'm pretty sure that we'll find - within the limits of people's ability to quickly get comfortable with the break/speed of the flagstick-in method - that the flagstick in will noticeably increase the make percentage.

I'll have a few of the kids do this downtown and will chart their results for them in this thread.

Give every putt your best effort. Post multiple times if you like - if you try this several times, or if you get some buddies to do it, etc. I'll assign every entry a number and will draw a random number at the end for a small prize.

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I went out to the practice green to try it out. Here are my results from the evening:

Flagstick OUT: 9/12 made from 4-5 feet around the hole

Flagstick IN: 9/12 made from 4-5 feet around the hole

They were equal, but my misses for both were lip outs meaning the flag couldn't have helped me too much. I think I'll practice a little bit further with the flagstick in to see if I see any change (I also feel like I got pretty lucky on the flagstick out test).

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Erik I will participate in your challenge and post my results here later in the week. 

We discussed the flagstick issue previously in another thread. I am coming from the preconception that you are drastically overstating the benefit of having the flagstick in for all putts. While I agree that it does help a little, my suspicion is that the flagstick has a "strokes gained" benefit of .01 or thereabouts (in other words, about 1 extra putt made for every 3 rounds played). 

That being said, I will do my best to be unbiased and fair and will post the results here once completed.

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Both ways, it was a tie. 7 of 12 . 14/24 made) 6 of the 10 putts I missed, were pretty much down hill rolls that missed the hole completely.

FWIW, I chipped 28 balls to a pin, about 10 feet a way. 14 with the pin in, 14 with out. All chips were from the 3-9 o'clock positions, relative to the hole. I made 6 of them with the flag out. I hit the pole with 2 more that didn't go in. The rest of the misses stopped with in 3' of the hole. Of those I made 16 alternating with flag in, and out. (8 & 8) I was using a 6i for the chips.  

I was able to use a regular size flag stick. 

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2 hours ago, Pretzel said:

but my misses for both were lip outs meaning the flag couldn't have helped me too much.

Yeah, that's one of the reasons this test is not going to lead to the absolute best results… people are going to have a hard time adjusting to hitting the ball at the flagstick with significantly less break.

29 minutes ago, Patch said:

Both ways, it was a tie. 7 of 12 . 14/24 made) 6 of the 10 putts I missed, were pretty much down hill rolls that missed the hole completely.

You missed the hole a bunch from 4-5', even with the flagstick in when you're not supposed to be playing that much break?

36 minutes ago, Big C said:

We discussed the flagstick issue previously in another thread. I am coming from the preconception that you are drastically overstating the benefit of having the flagstick in for all putts.

PGA Tour pros make 88%, 77%, and 66% of their putts from 4, 5, and 6 feet. Increasing those percentages 5% is what I'd call "significant" (and I think that once players become accustomed to the way they can putt with the flagstick in, can be even higher). I don't think a 5% increase is all that "drastic."

36 minutes ago, Big C said:

While I agree that it does help a little, my suspicion is that the flagstick has a "strokes gained" benefit of .01 or thereabouts (in other words, about 1 extra putt made for every 3 rounds played).

Yeah, you're way off. :-)

And like I said, this is a human test, with some putters who can apparently miss the hole frequently when trying to hit the flagstick from 4½ feet… ;-) This type of test deserves both accurate human testing (which would take thousands of putts and hundreds of golfers) and robot testing (i.e. rolling putts at the same spot, etc.).

12 and 24 and even 36 is a pretty small sample size. Hopefully we can get to a few hundred putts hit on both sides in the next few weeks. Or thousands.

Spoiler

I don't think you realize how little 0.01 strokes gained is, even if you're applying it to every putt (rather than 18 times per round - because there's really no sense in applying it to each putt, when you can simply ask "from 37 feet what's the average stroke total putting" and get the same gain if the player two-putts regardless of the distance of his second putt.

Even a 5% increase is about one stroke per round. That's huge. 18 * 0.05 = 0.9.

I can't stress how weird it can be for some people to hammer a putt at the center of the cup when normally they might play that putt 2-3" outside the cup.

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I went out a second time as I locked up the pro shop this evening. The results were 8/12 for no flagstick and 9/12 for a flagstick. My totals are below:

Flagstick OUT: 17/24

Flagstick IN: 18/24

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Erik, I think that if our putting strokes were as precise as yours, and we were able to conduct enough trials, we could probably generate some statistically significant results. If I hit 10 putts from 5' I'd be lucky to make half of them, whether stick in or out!

I don't expect that I'd be much help. I'm simply not confident enough in my stroke to strike a putt firmly enough to take out the break. Except for maybe a 1 or 2 footer!

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3 minutes ago, Buckeyebowman said:

Erik, I think that if our putting strokes were as precise as yours, and we were able to conduct enough trials, we could probably generate some statistically significant results. If I hit 10 putts from 5' I'd be lucky to make half of them, whether stick in or out!

With enough putts hit that noise will fade away.

But… if it turns out that people can't hit the flagstick often enough because they just can't, psychologically or whatever, make themselves hit the putt on that line with that speed, the results could show the opposite.

Which may change over time, as people get more comfortable doing it. I think if you try it you'll even see how much more comfortable you can become during the trials. Try it from 3' if at first you're not sure. Build up the proper psyche to hit the ball this way so that you can take advantage of the… errr… advantage leaving the flagstick in provides.

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1 hour ago, iacas said:

You missed the hole a bunch from 4-5', even with the flagstick in when you're not supposed to be playing that much break?

This is where I think you are missing the mark. This is not atypical. Most amateurs are not great at hitting their line (or perhaps they are poor at lining up, but effectively the result is the same). 

As a single digit handicapper, I am still capable of missing the hole entirely from 3 feet, let alone 4-5. It doesn't happen often, but it's not so rare that I can't pretend like the flagstick would be a cure all. 

And that's why I think that even when you get the results of this study, they are still going to overstate the value of leaving the flagstick in. Because if everyone putts the way you are recommending, they are going to have a couple of very likely 3 putts from 4-5 feet - an occurrence that almost never happens for most.

But you are not asking people to record how many putts it takes them to get the ball in the hole, just how many of those first putts are made.

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4 minutes ago, Big C said:

This is where I think you are missing the mark. This is not atypical. Most amateurs are not great at hitting their line (or perhaps they are poor at lining up, but effectively the result is the same).

Good putters are good at hitting their line.

So… you're okay with widening the gap between good and bad putters by providing a significant advantage only to the good putters?

Right now PGA Tour pros make 77% from 5'. A 90 shooter makes 50%. You'd be okay with those numbers shifting to 85% and 53%?

4 minutes ago, Big C said:

As a single digit handicapper, I am still capable of missing the hole entirely from 3 feet, let alone 4-5. It doesn't happen often, but it's not so rare that I can't pretend like the flagstick would be a cure all.

As I've noted a few times… I think a lot of the early results are going to be (not the right word but you may get what I mean) "skewed" by people simply not being comfortable playing a putt they'd normally give 3" to less than an inch of break. Every missed putt with the flagstick in from the kids I had putt today was too high. They had to keep reminding themselves to play it "at the stick." Yet they still made 13% more (very small sample size).

So again… are you okay with increasing the separation value of putting? I'm not, and as a good putter, I stand to benefit quite a bit… In other words, average to poor putters should oppose this - the vast majority of golfers. Great putters will eat this up.

And I never said it was a "cure-all." I've simply said that it's easier to make putts with the flagstick in. That's still true. The math and physics say this: if you can adjust, leaving the flagstick in gives you a wider margin of error both on your reads and your speed - both can be off more than they are with "great" capture speed and no flagstick to still make the putt. (I have a longer post on that coming at some point…)

You may have been among the few who argued in the "leave the flagstick in" topic that even if it helps, it doesn't matter much because the average golfer doesn't hit the ball near enough to the hole from off the green very often: even if the flagstick saves them 1 stroke, for example, a sucky golfer is only going to save maybe three shots a year because their chips rarely go over the middle of the hole.

That's true, but again… good players hit their shots around the hole far more often. Look at any PGA Tour round and you will see more chip-ins than you probably get in an entire year of golfing. Leaving the flagstick in benefits everyone, but it benefits the better player even more.

4 minutes ago, Big C said:

And that's why I think that even when you get the results of this study, they are still going to overstate the value of leaving the flagstick in. Because if everyone putts the way you are recommending, they are going to have a couple of very likely 3 putts from 4-5 feet - an occurrence that almost never happens for most.

There will be a small number more three-putts. But for good putters, the number of increased one-putts will more than wipe out that number. That's another reason why this will benefit good putters more than bad putters.

Right now the average putts to hole out on the PGA Tour from 5' is 1.23. They make 77% and two-putt 23% (they three-putt a statistically insignificant percentage of the time from five feet). If that number increases to where they can make 85%, and they hit putts 5' past speed… the math is simple. So 85% of the time they one-putt. 12.75% of the time they two-putt (15% missed first putts * 85% putting from 5'). The rest of the time they three-putt… but the "rest of the time" is only 2.25% of the time! So that works out to… 1.17. Savings: 0.06 strokes per five-footer.

And I've had estimates by good putters that from five feet they can see making 90%+ with the flagstick in. One of those guys was @mvmac. (It's not just me who thinks this. @david_wedzik encouraged me to post the site flagstickrule.com). @NCGolfer. @mvmac. Great putters will eat this up.


Look I'm not pretending this test, this challenge, is going to produce great data. But it'll produce "data," and it may or may not show anything. Maybe people will have trouble adjusting. Maybe we have a lot of shitty putters here. Maybe it'll show a huge increase, and you'll be back here in a month arguing that "yeah, but what about those putts they missed" and running the math on those putts and using those percentages to calculate their three-putt probabilities…

I still think average golfers, given almost no time to adjust, will have a hard time making that adjustment and playing so much less break, and missing a lot of putts high, or just smacking putts not 5' past but 10' or more…

The point is that this test is going to give us more to talk about. It's just something to do. Another piece of data. Something to possibly further the discussion.


Now, I also don't want to get this topic into too much discussion like this. I want this topic to focus on people doing the challenge and posting their results.

P.S. Thanks, @Big C. I've been speaking generally, and from the perspective of a good putter. Most of the people I've talked to about this are good putters, too. We can step up on a practice green and smack a ball at a flagstick in a hole 5' away and make it a lot of the time. Your post made me realize the likelihood that this would benefit good putters quite a bit more than poor putters.

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Eric

Why not simply use a stimp launcher? Set it fixed (ie don't lift it to get the ball to roll) so keeping the direction constant. Direction can be tweeked to hit the stick head on or at a slight angle. Once set to the same correct direction, the player's inhibitions don't affect anything.

Also, it would probably be faster. (PoP and all that)

 

Edited by Rulesman
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If i do this on the green near my house, not a practice green.  Should i do flag out and then wait a day and do flag in, to not remember the break?

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4 hours ago, Rulesman said:

Eric

Why not simply use a stimp launcher? Set it fixed (ie don't lift it to get the ball to roll) so keeping the direction constant. Direction can be tweeked to hit the stick head on or at a slight angle. Once set to the same correct direction, the player's inhibitions don't affect anything.

Also, it would probably be faster. (PoP and all that)

 

I believe he is intending to do a test like this when the weather improves and the greens run more true than they do now. I've seen reference to something like that in other threads, but can't find the exact one now. Below he mentions using a product called Perfect Putter.

 

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17 minutes ago, RandallT said:

I believe he is intending to do a test like this when the weather improves and the greens run more true than they do now. I've seen reference to something like that in other threads, but can't find the exact one now. Below he mentions using a product called Perfect Putter.

 

Yes, Pelz did this years ago; thousands of putts:

www.golf.com/instruction/flag-or-out

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4 hours ago, Rulesman said:

Why not simply use a stimp launcher? Set it fixed (ie don't lift it to get the ball to roll) so keeping the direction constant. Direction can be tweeked to hit the stick head on or at a slight angle. Once set to the same correct direction, the player's inhibitions don't affect anything.

I've said several times that I'm going to use a Perfect Putter to re-create the tests I did last fall (when I was doing so just to confirm to myself that I was correct in advocating leaving the flagstick in when chipping from off the green).

We still have snow on the ground, though, so it's gonna be awhile before I can get out with @david_wedzik and conduct these tests in anything I'd call reasonably good conditions.

I'm not that worried about the stimp because we'll basically just be rolling the ball from a foot away from the hole, with speeds that send the ball about 16" past the hole and then maybe 3-5' past the hole. We'll do it from all sorts of angles around the hole.

But the Perfect Putter has no player psychology.

40 minutes ago, sirhacksalot said:

If i do this on the green near my house, not a practice green.  Should i do flag out and then wait a day and do flag in, to not remember the break?

Do it at the same time. You're hitting every putt from all 12 clock positions around the green, and you're going to have to play very different break. You get to hit the ball firmly enough that it would go 4' past the hole, remember. Just have the confidence to hit it firmly enough and straight enough. The change to the mental approach to putting is the biggest challenge (and the biggest thing that can screw up the results in this very human trial).


Let's keep this thread primarily to a posting of the results of this challenge, please.

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I just got home from trying this experiment.  I took 36 putts with the flag stick in and 36 with the flag stick out.  The green was fairly flat, Maybe a 1" right to left break.  My results are below. To be fair I took a few minutes to warm up (it was 48 this morning) and hit about 20 putts from various distances, then took my shag bag and got out 12 balls. I hit 12 putts with the pin in and then 12 with the pin out.  I am usually pretty consistent with 5' or less making 8 of 10.  My problem when playing 18 is that I am rarely within 10' when I hit the green(working on that).

1st 12 putts with pin in:     8 of 12

1st 12 putts with pin out:   9 of 12

2nd 12 putts with pin in:   9 of 12

2nd 12 putts with pin out:  8 of 12

3rd 12 putts with pin in:  7 of 12

3rd 12 putts with pin out:  8 of 12

So not sure how this plays out with others but I made 24 of 36 with the flag stick in and 25 of 36 with the flag stick out.  I actually found it more difficult with the stick in as it had a tendency to mess up my alignment.

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I think you will see more putts made due to the flagstick being in from longer distances rather than from shorter ones.  You see more putts from distance that hop over the hole due to speed than you do short putts.

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4 minutes ago, tigerrag said:

I think you will see more putts made due to the flagstick being in from longer distances rather than from shorter ones.  You see more putts from distance that hop over the hole due to speed than you do short putts.

I think tigerrag is right.  Tomorrow morning I will go and hit another 72 putts from 10 feet which I normally hit firm and when I miss go

3' - 6' past the hole.  This may be a better test.

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