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Putting with the Flagstick In

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Just an amazing post, great info, well done.

Personally, Im bad at putting (GG and other stat tracking I do proves this). I keep the flagstick in at all legal times because of what I read in LSW. Even when I play solo though, I would actually take the flagstick out. I think this is an advantage and for selfish reasons, I like the rule if it helps me just a bit more.

 

As Im fairly new to the sport of golf (2 seasons), Im used to other sports I play changing rapidly and I guess part of me overall accepts it easier than some who have played golf longer. 

Edited by cutchemist42

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7 minutes ago, cutchemist42 said:

Just an amazing post, great info, well done.

Personally, Im bad at putting (GG and other stat tracking I do proves this). I keep the flagstick in at all legal times because of what I read in LSW. Even when I play solo though, I would actually take the flagstick out. I think this is an advantage and for selfish reasons, I like the rule if it helps me just a bit more.

 

As Im fairly new to the sport of golf (2 seasons), Im used to other sports I play changing rapidly and I guess part of me overall accepts it easier than some who have played golf longer. 

I think it is likely to help the better putters than the average or poor putters.  Would you like the rule if it gave the better players more of an advantage than it gives you?

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Just now, No Mulligans said:

I think it is likely to help the better putters than the average or poor putters.  Would you like the rule if it gave the better players more of an advantage than it gives you?

I might not based on how I handle something similar in another sport.

I've gone through big changes in another sport; as a goalie in hockey, I played through the goalie gear reduction which resulted in me having to buy new equipment to stay legal in competitive hockey. At the time, I was more pissed about the price than the actual reduction. I still play beer league where both sets of equipment are allowed and I still see guys playing the old size. I've never had one angry thought about the difference, even if the goalie is better than me on skill alone while wearing bigger equipment. (Although, there could be an argument that modern goalie equipment is lighter and has better benefits than the extra size of heavier older equipment. Materials as well on modern pads allow for better sliding)

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Wow!  If I needed convincing, I'd be a convert just from reading the mass of data in the first post.  

However, I've been a believer for almost 3 decades.  My second hole-in-one showed me the advantage of flagstick in.  In May of 1990 I skulled a 6I off the tee, ricocheted it off a grass and hardpan bank left of the green, and somehow as it careened across the putting surface at something like 30 mph, it hit the flagstick dead center and dropped straight down for a one.  Since that day I only remove the flagstick for a chip or pitch if I'm playing into the wind pushing the stick toward me and I can't get it to stand straight up in the hole.

I certainly can't enumerate the times that the ball has hit the flagstick on a chip and fallen in the hole, but I can definitively state that I have hit it quite often with too much speed and had it either hole out or just a kick a few inches away.  I tend to play chips firmly with good pace, basing my play on the guaranteed theory that a ball left short of the hole will almost never fall.  When I hole out a chip, it has almost always hit the flagstick before disappearing.

Another thing that hasn't been part of the discussion as far as I've seen yet is that more than a couple of times I've had a ball hit the hole with excess speed, but hit off center and get "pinched" between the stick and side of the hole.  Just straighten the flagstick and they drop to be legally holed.   Without the flagstick in the hole, those balls would have been almost certain to lip out.

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1 minute ago, Fourputt said:

However, I've been a believer for almost 3 decades.  My second hole-in-one showed me the advantage of flagstick in.  In May of 1990 I skulled a 6I off the tee, ricocheted it off a grass and hardpan bank left of the green, and somehow as it careened across the putting surface at something like 30 mph, it hit the flagstick dead center and dropped straight down for a one.  Since that day I only remove the flagstick for a chip or pitch if I'm playing into the wind pushing the stick toward me and I can't get it to stand straight up in the hole.

To be clear, and fair, I'm not proposing that people smack the flagstick really hard, because misses would be VERY penal as they'd roll out to three-putt distance.

I'm just saying:

  • Better golfers will probably benefit more, IMO, from this because they can hit a line of +/-0.9" more regularly.
  • Everyone will benefit somewhat, even if it's from short distances, due to the basic physics, and the fact that even if you play a putt slowly the flagstick doesn't take away anything.
1 minute ago, Fourputt said:

Another thing that hasn't been part of the discussion as far as I've seen yet is that more than a couple of times I've had a ball hit the hole with excess speed, but hit off center and get "pinched" between the stick and side of the hole.  Just straighten the flagstick and they drop to be legally holed.   Without the flagstick in the hole, those balls would have been almost certain to lip out.

Same principle at work, yeah.

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Nice article. I can think of a few situations where having the flagstick in would give me more confidence. One would be side hill putts from 3 - 5' on a steeper slope. Without the flag stick, I tend to want the ball to die in the hole. Miss low and the ball rolls away. Miss high and you have the chance of it dropping in and out of the hole and slingshotting away. With the flag in, I would feel more confident on the high side because the ball could hit the stick as it was rounding and drop it. If I'm more on line, it hits and drops. So I would not putt with the speed of dying in the hole.

Up and down hill putts would also give me more confidence with the flag in. Uphill, I would be more aggressive knowing that my chancing increase. Downhill, if I'm too fast, the flag stick will reduce the distance the ball rolls out on a miss by dampening.

Lastly, I know stats. If my odds are better with the flagstick in, I will gain confidence.

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23 hours ago, iacas said:

Here's a thread where we can all speculate and share data and thoughts and discuss "theories" and hypotheses…

1. I wanted to speculate on what type of study would settle this issue? 

2. And if a proper study is done, what type of change in putting results would be "too significant" for people to accept?

Just waive this off, if these questions are OT. You discussed things so thoroughly, that there's not much I could possibly add, other than to say it all makes sense to me.

How Account for "Time to Improve" in the Study?

My thought is that, as mentioned, there is a psychological element to it. Some golfers may be able to capitalize on this immediately, some more slowly (but improve substantially), and some may not improve at all. Also, as mentioned, there is ZERO logical reason that anyone would play worse.

The key, to me, will be how long does it take your average golfer to adapt and take full advantage of this new putting paradigm. If it takes a month or so to fully adapt (perhaps another bell curve for how long each of us take?!), will a thorough study allow that time for players to adapt and therefore show the final result of the change? 

Anyway, I'm just speculating as to how satisfied I'll be in any future official USGA/R&A tests that are performed:

The people testing how significant this change will be for scoring (and therefore, preserving the skill of putting to much the same as it is now) can skew the results toward the "minimal impact" result-- if they keep don't put much critical thinking into how this skill might be developed in players over time. 

How Much and What Kind of Scoring Improvement is Too Much?

Even if the test is designed perfectly, such that we know the final impact after all technique adaptations are made, what is the best frame of mind for us to still consider the change?

None of us are objecting to change for change's sake. But at some point, too much change in the putting results is simply too much- or does that not matter to many? As we know, this is the result (generally) of PGA players in recent seasons:

Screen Shot 2017-03-23 at 1.38.03 PM.png

What if the 1.5 number moves out to 10ft? 12ft? 

What if at 4ft, pros become 1.04, as they are now at 3ft?

And what if the results show that better golfers tend to be the far more likely to capitalize on this new technique- extending themselves that much better than the average golfer? Perhaps bogey golfers can't take advantage whatsoever- does that matter?

I'm certainly interested to see how the numbers shake out, in raw numbers and in who benefits- but I'm trying to figure out for myself how much is too much.

My gut tells me that if putting improves by 1 stroke or more per round, that seems to me like too much. 

 

 

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30 minutes ago, RandallT said:

1. I wanted to speculate on what type of study would settle this issue? 

2. And if a proper study is done, what type of change in putting results would be "too significant" for people to accept?

Just waive this off, if these questions are OT. You discussed things so thoroughly, that there's not much I could possibly add, other than to say it all makes sense to me.

At this point, I honestly don't know that it matters much. Dave and I are still going to conduct the study tomorrow, but I don't think the study is even necessary at this point.

The flagstick in will, absent those two conditions, help. If you want to die the ball in the hole and have a wider capture width, nothing changes and you're welcome to keep doing that. But even if you are that kind of "die it in the hole" type putter, and you occasionally goose one from short range, or want the option to play it firmer to take the break or uncertainty out of it, the flagstick helps.

If you're the type who already hits your putts 3-5' past the hole… the flagstick almost always helps.

There's no downside, absent those two conditions, to leaving the flagstick in.

So again, I'm not sure any study is even necessary, because people don't have to change the way they putt and we'd still see an advantage.

30 minutes ago, RandallT said:

How Account for "Time to Improve" in the Study?

My thought is that, as mentioned, there is a psychological element to it. Some golfers may be able to capitalize on this immediately, some more slowly (but improve substantially), and some may not improve at all. Also, as mentioned, there is ZERO logical reason that anyone would play worse.

The key, to me, will be how long does it take your average golfer to adapt and take full advantage of this new putting paradigm. If it takes a month or so to fully adapt (perhaps another bell curve for how long each of us take?!), will a thorough study allow that time for players to adapt and therefore show the final result of the change?

Anyway, I'm just speculating as to how satisfied I'll be in any future official USGA/R&A tests that are performed:

The people testing how significant this change will be for scoring (and therefore, preserving the skill of putting to much the same as it is now) can skew the results toward the "minimal impact" result-- if they keep don't put much critical thinking into how this skill might be developed in players over time.

I agree. That's one of the reasons I kind of already figured that I wouldn't be giving much weight to the "challenge" we're doing here - it gives people only a minute or two to adjust.

That adjustment isn't easy, even for good putters (though good putters, in my experience, can learn to take advantage in a matter of an hour, give or take).

Remember, nobody needs to putt any differently… but better players will be better positioned to take advantage, and to do so more readily. For example, if the rules were changed to say that just hitting the flagstick counted as holing the putt, a great putter would almost never miss from 5' or 6', and may make maybe 80% of his 10' putts, because he'd pretty quickly adapt to hitting the ball 6' past the hole with an aim that the middle 2.1"+ of the hole (1.68+0.5 = 2.18).

30 minutes ago, RandallT said:

How Much and What Kind of Scoring Improvement is Too Much?

Even if the test is designed perfectly, such that we know the final impact after all technique adaptations are made, what is the best frame of mind for us to still consider the change?

None of us are objecting to change for change's sake. But at some point, too much change in the putting results is simply too much- or does that not matter to many? As we know, this is the result (generally) of PGA players in recent seasons:

Screen Shot 2017-03-23 at 1.38.03 PM.png

What if the 1.5 number moves out to 10ft? 12ft?

Even a few percent is too high, because that percent will ripple through almost every shot. Longer putts become easier because the likelihood of missing the second putt decreases. And so on.

I've said that I think 77% from 5' could go up to 85% pretty easily, and that's what I call a significant change in the putting stats.

And the USGA/R&A are on record as saying there's NO advantage. I think it's pretty clear that they're wrong and so I'm hopeful that if any advantage is demonstrated (which I feel I've already done), that should be enough.

30 minutes ago, RandallT said:

What if the 1.5 number moves out to 10ft? 12ft? 

What if at 4ft, pros become 1.04, as they are now at 3ft?

Those would be huge changes. HUGE.

30 minutes ago, RandallT said:

And what if the results show that better golfers tend to be the far more likely to capitalize on this new technique- extending themselves that much better than the average golfer? Perhaps bogey golfers can't take advantage whatsoever- does that matter?

I think that, too, matters quite a bit.

30 minutes ago, RandallT said:

I'm certainly interested to see how the numbers shake out, in raw numbers and in who benefits- but I'm trying to figure out for myself how much is too much.

My gut tells me that if putting improves by 1 stroke or more per round, that seems to me like too much.

That's way, way too much IMO. Again, the USGA/R&A have said they "think" it's no advantage.

I think a quarter stroke per round is too much, particularly if it's closer to 0.4 for the lower handicap player and 0.1 for the higher handicapper. (I think it may be higher than that… I'm just saying, even 0.25 average improvement is too much or my tastes.)

If #100 in scoring on the PGA Tour in 2016 (Harold Varner III) shaved 0.25 strokes… he'd move up to 65th. One stroke over four rounds… 35 places in the scoring list.

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On ‎3‎/‎23‎/‎2017 at 2:19 PM, iacas said:

And the USGA/R&A are on record as saying there's NO advantage. I think it's pretty clear that they're wrong and so I'm hopeful that if any advantage is demonstrated (which I feel I've already done), that should be enough.

I don't have much to add in this thread, since @iacas covered it so thoroughly, but THIS ^^^ is what bothered me so much.  They're either being dishonest or ignorant, and I'm not sure which is worse.

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2 hours ago, Hardspoon said:

I don't have much to add in this thread, since @iacas covered it so thoroughly, but THIS ^^^ is what bothered me so much.  They're either being dishonest or ignorant, and I'm not sure which is worse.

In fact, here's what the USGA has to say on the topic:

Explanation for Proposed Rule Change
3. Ball Played from the Putting Green Hits Unattended Flagstick in Hole
Current Rule: Under Rule 17-3, if a player makes a stroke on the putting green and the ball
then hits the unattended flagstick that was left in the hole, the player gets the general penalty.
Proposed Rule: Under new Rule 13.2b(3):
 There would no longer be a penalty if a ball played from the putting green hits an
unattended flagstick in the hole.
 Players would not be required to putt with the unattended flagstick in the hole; rather,
they would continue to have the choice to remove the flagstick before playing or to
have it attended.
Reasons for Change:
 Allowing a player to putt with the flagstick in the hole without fear of penalty should
generally help speed up play:
o For example, if a putt is long enough that the player cannot easily see the hole
unless the flagstick is left in, the player currently needs to wait for another person to
attend the flagstick even if it is the player’s turn to play or (in stroke play) if the
player is ready to play and it would save time to go ahead and do so.
o This change could also speed up play of some short tap-ins, as the player could
simply putt the ball into the hole without first removing and then replacing the
flagstick.
 When the players do not have caddies, the current Rule can result in considerable delay, such as:
o When the opponent (or the other player in stroke play) is raking a greenside bunker
and will be delayed for a minute or two before coming on to the green.
o When other players in stroke play are delayed in coming on to the green for other
reasons, such as a ball search, indecision about what club to use or shot to play, etc.
o When all players in the group have long putts and so will need to walk back and
forth to the hole to attend the flagstick for one another (which sometimes produces
uncertainty about who will or should attend for someone else).
 In match play, a player without a caddie would now be able to choose to putt with the
unattended flagstick in the hole rather than ask the opponent to attend the flagstick,
reducing the potential for dispute that can arise when the opponent attends for the
player (such as when the opponent fails to remove the flagstick and the ball hits it).
 On balance it is expected that there should be no advantage in being able to putt with
the unattended flagstick in the hole:
o In some cases the ball may strike the flagstick and bounce out of the hole when it
might otherwise have been holed, and
o In other cases the ball may hit the flagstick and finish in the hole when it might
otherwise have missed.
 

--------

To suggest that they are ignorant or dishonest, is disingenuous on your part.

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10 minutes ago, Asheville said:

o In some cases the ball may strike the flagstick and bounce out of the hole when it
might otherwise have been holed, and

They don't know. This seems to be a complete guess on their part. I've never found this to be true except in the two rare cases I've noted several times.

10 minutes ago, Asheville said:

o In other cases the ball may hit the flagstick and finish in the hole when it might
otherwise have missed.

In my testing this is true occasionally, and more often than the roughly 0% of the time a flagstick keeps a ball out that would have gone in.

So on balance, the flagstick provides an advantage.

What testing has the USGA/R&A done? Because if they've not, it's short-sighted of them consider this could fairly drastically change the way we play the game.

10 minutes ago, Asheville said:

To suggest that they are ignorant or dishonest, is disingenuous on your part.

It isn't. They've not conducted a study to determine whether this will affect the scores golfers shoot. They seem to assume that when players have the time and can see the hole, they'll take the flagstick out. They don't seem to give any consideration - and seemingly have not studied - the advantage provided by leaving the flagstick in for ALL putts.

Also, right now, the rules for the flagstick (composition, diameter, etc.) are pretty minimal because it rarely comes into play. Adopt this proposed rule and the flagstick may come into play 18+ times a round per golfer.

P.S. I think @Hardspoon has read the bit you quoted.

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@Asheville, I read the USGA piece you quoted above.

I have no issue with the "pace of play" piece...I'm not sure it would help, but I'm not sure it would hurt, either.

While I wasn't clear, I'm glad you posted this, because it's specifically the text you put in red that I was referring to when I made my "ignorant or dishonest" statement:

Quote

On balance it is expected that there should be no advantage in being able to putt with
the unattended flagstick in the hole:

  • In some cases the ball may strike the flagstick and bounce out of the hole when it might otherwise have been holed, and
  • In other cases the ball may hit the flagstick and finish in the hole when it might otherwise have missed.

 

I mean...anyone who has played golf for a significant amount of time just knows, instinctively, that those two situations are not even close to occurring at the same frequency.  I can't remember a single time in the hundreds of rounds of golf I've played where a ball hit the flagstick and bounced out, when it might have gone in; if it's going fast enough to bounce off the flagstick, it's not staying in the hole.  But I can think of dozens where the second case was true; hell, that probably applies to 75% of the times I've holed out from off the green (including my hole-in-one, and yeah, I'm going to use any excuse to mention that, @iacas  :-P)

That statement in red, to me, has to be either ignorant (they never bothered to think about the fact that two situations occurring with drastically different frequencies don't cancel each other out), or dishonest (they wanted the flagstick rule to improve pace of play, so they made a dodgy argument).

Here's a fun one...

We're going to pass a law that headlights will be removed from all cars.  On balance it is expected that there should be no disadvantage in driving without headlights at night:

  • In some cases the glare from headlights blinds the driver of an oncoming car, causing accidents
  • In other cases headlights allow you to see other things at night, preventing accidents
Edited by Hardspoon

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It's  pretty personal but I have gained the nickname the nestler for my tendency to die putts right around the hole.  I take the view that the hole is effectively widened if the ball is moving slowly.  A fast mover will lip out a slower ball falls in.

im definitely not aa great putter but I tend to avoid three putts pretty well considering my lack of practice.

I have had a lot off putts a touch high side that have almost frozen there for a second and then dropped.

For myself I don't like facing 4-5 feet coming back.  I see many pros really take out the break and bang em in there to keep them on line but can't do it.  I've always putted this way can't change now.

one thing on the stick in is it might aid alignment.  I am not sure but I have felt when playing a quick round by myself sometimes that it's easier to see a line with the stick in.

Edited by Jack Watson

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After reading the OP I feel like I've just taken an advanced course in Physics! I'll address just a few issues from the vantage point of an amateur hacker.

Whenever possible I like to putt looking at the entire hole. It actually seems larger than when the flagstick is in it.

Point 4. This rule would allow players, particularly poorer putters, to be more aggressive in their stroke. Uhhhhhhh, I don't know about that! I've not seen too many poorer players who were, in any way, the least bit bold in their putting! They are timid when putting because they are not confident of hitting the ball on the proper line at the proper speed. I don't think putting the flagstick in the hole is going to change that. Is this psychological? Yes, indeed! I think one's putting "style" is ingrained early on. True, new behaviors can be learned, but how many "poorer players" have putting coaches?

Point 6. The flagstick in the hole provides an additional aiming point. Well, the pros have that available to them all the time. They have caddies! We do not!

FWIW, I'm for having pros and better amateurs putting to empty holes or tended flagsticks which can be pulled so that the flagstick does NOT get in the way. For us regular chops? I say anything goes! Of course, this brings to mind the "two separate sets of rules" deal, and I must admit that I am conflicted.

 

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10 minutes ago, Buckeyebowman said:

Point 4. This rule would allow players, particularly poorer putters, to be more aggressive in their stroke. Uhhhhhhh, I don't know about that! I've not seen too many poorer players who were, in any way, the least bit bold in their putting!

Read the stats. Higher handicappers leave a ton of putts from 6-15' short.

As noted above, though, they should take this advice (to get the ball to the hole) regardless of whether this proposed rule is adopted or not.

9 minutes ago, Buckeyebowman said:

Point 6. The flagstick in the hole provides an additional aiming point. Well, the pros have that available to them all the time. They have caddies! We do not!

What's the caddie have to do with anything?

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13 minutes ago, iacas said:

Read the stats. Higher handicappers leave a ton of putts from 6-15' short.

As noted above, though, they should take this advice (to get the ball to the hole) regardless of whether this proposed rule is adopted or not.

What's the caddie have to do with anything?

Way to reinforce my points!

Yes, higher handicappers leave a ton of putts short. So what will change if you leave the flagstick in? Are they all suddenly going to become Braveheart?

And yes, again! Never up, never in!

And the caddie has to do with the fact that he tends the pin! He can keep it in the hole providing an "aiming point" for his player, and pull it when the ball gets close.

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