The most talked-about story of the young 2019 golf season has been the changes to the Rules of Golf, more specifically the changes to golfers’ ability to putt with the flagstick in when on the green if they so choose.
The results and opinions regarding the rule change tend to vary from golfer to golfer, but Edoardo Molinari, the brother of reigning Open Championship winner Francesco, decided to enlist the help of three pros at his golf academy to inject some fresh science into the debate.
Previously, Dave Pelz’s 1990 study has been the most cited reason for putting with the flagstick in, and Pelz wrote a follow-up to his study earlier this month saying, “The test results were conclusive: you will hole a higher percentage of putts when you leave the flagstick in,” adding later in the article, “even though balls have changed since my testing, holes and flagsticks have not, and the ‘energy-loss’ effect will still win the day.”
Pelz encourages golfers to test the theory themselves, which is exactly what the Edoardo Molinari Golf Academy did on Friday.
“In the last few weeks, a lot of talk has been made about the new ‘flagstick’ rule which now gives you the option to leave the flag in when playing a shot from the green,” the EMGA’s caption read. “Bryson DeChambeau last week in Hawaii left the flag in quite often. We wanted to make sure what is the best choice for your own benefit!
“So three pros from our academy spent the last day on the 18th hole at Royal Park I Roveri testing the two options using using different speeds and entry lines.”
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Three different speeds (slow, medium, and fast) and three different lines (center, touching the flagstick, and grazing the flagstick) were tested 100 times each, and the pros came to some interesting results considering what has been accepted as fact following the Pelz test.
Here are the test results from the EMGA side-by-side.
The results were mixed. Putts hit with dying speed that fall into the center of the cup have no advantage or disadvantage as it pertains to having the flagstick in or out, but the two other speeds show noticeable and beneficial practices.
For putts that would hit the back rim of the cup, taking the flagstick out provides a distinct advantage for pulling the pin — 73% vs. 45% when hitting the flagstick and 38% to 14% when grazing the flagstick.
Conversely, for putts moving at a fast pace entering the hole, keeping the flagstick in is the best option — 100% to 81% on center putts and 7% vs. 0% on hitting the flagstick.