You’ve seen Bryson DeChambeau make a major statement on the PGA TOUR by putting with the flagstick in during PGA TOUR events. I know, you’ve probably played golf your entire life putting with the flag out and this just looks weird. However, you may want to consider trying pin-in putting if you value scoring.

Let’s explain the rules change by the USGA. Golfers will now have three options when putting in 2019: Remove the pin completely, have someone tend the pin, or leave the pin in and unattended. If your putt hits the pin in the third scenario, there’s no penalty (formerly two strokes or loss of hole).

Before you decide how you want to putt, let’s review some facts:

  1. Assuming the pin is securely in place, standing vertical and not swaying in the wind, the hole is 4.25” wide.
  2. The diameter of a standard flagstick is 0.5” (some pins taper to ¾” and even 1” above the hole).
  3. If you look at the space left for a golf ball, the 2.125” half-hole minus the 0.25” half-pin, leaves 1.875” between the cup edge and the pin.
  4. Golf balls are 1.68” in diameter. This leaves a .195”-gap of open space for the ball to fit into the hole with the flagstick in place.

This doesn’t sound like much space, especially if the pin is leaning slightly toward the golfer. This effect, however, has been tested, and my studies show conclusively that you should putt with the pin in!

I conducted my original Pin In/Pin Out test in 1990, and published the results in the December issue of GOLF Magazine. The testing was performed with a special putting device built to roll putts accurately aimed with a laser—and a true, pure roll—from two feet away. We rolled putts at different speeds hitting different parts of the pin on flat, uphill and downhill sloping greens. The test results were conclusive: You will hole a higher percentage of putts when you leave the flagstick in.

The reason for this effect is that a significant amount of energy is lost from a putt’s speed when the ball hits a fiberglass flagstick. The speed-loss enables gravity to pull the slower moving ball down into the hole more often. Even though balls have changed since my testing, holes and flagsticks have not, and the “energy-loss” effect will still win the day.

To make you feel better about leaving the pin in, think about how many long putts and chips you’ve seen crash into the pin and still stay in the hole. If you’re watching golf on TV, you’ve also seen several shots fly into the hole directly from the fairway and stay in.

For your own good, test this new rule for yourself. Putt 12 balls from a three-foot circle all the way around the hole. Do the same drill for six-foot putts. Repeat this drill 10 times on 10 different days, and keep tab of your results. Send me your results to

Whether or not this test makes a believer of you, you will have forced yourself to practice your putting, putting you a solid step ahead of your foursome.

By Dave Peltz

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