19th Hole

Rob Rashell
Director of Instruction
TPC Scottsdale
Scottsdale, AZ

More Information

Flagstick In, Flagstick Out

One of the changes to the Rules of Golf in 2019 allows players to decide if they’d like to keep the flagstick in while putting. By the old rules, any ball that originates on the putting surface and strikes the flagstick, in or out, was considered a penalty. At the moment I’m out watching a player I work with on the PGA Tour and have seen many different choices by the guys in the field. A lot of research has been done since the beginning of the year to determine what is the best course of action. The short answer for you, it depends.

This is where every single person agrees. A ball moving too fast, finishing more than 4 feet past the hole will one hundred percent be better off with the flagstick in. The ball may hit the flagstick and drop or hit the flagstick and stop close to the hole, but without question, leave the flagstick in. Where this gets a little sticky is a person putting from 10 feet hopefully is not choosing a speed that would end up four to eight feet past the hole. This strategy would not be the best for lowest scoring.

To me, this one is less talked about and interesting to think about. Unless a player is certain the flagstick sits 90 degrees to the surface, a hole cut in at an angle would make the flag lean one direction or the other, influencing the perception of slope. A flat putt may look like it breaks more because the flagstick is leaning. I would recommend reading putts with the flagstick out, to take away visual bias.

The other visual piece is from the shadow of the flagstick.  Without wind, the flagstick shadow sits very still and in rare circumstances can be used to help line the ball up. Think of your ball sitting directly in the shadow of the flag on a dead straight putt. Just roll it down the shadow, you’ll make it every time.

I’d say leave the flagstick in on anything outside of what you can comfortably see 20-30 feet. Also, leave the flagstick in on really fast greens going down hill with the off chance you hit the flagstick and it helps the ball go in or stops next to the hole.  

If you’re just starting the game or a beginning junior I’d leave the flag in 100% of the time, until speed control gets really good. I know it looks weird, but it certainly can help in certain situations. Good Luck! 

Rob Rashell is now the Director of  Instruction at TPC Scottsdale. You can reach him at robrashell@pgatourtpc.com.