Pin IN Or OUT? 

By Joe Stansberry




Of all the rules changes for 2019, the most controversial and I believe the least understood is the ability to keep the pin in while you putt.

Old school players will just take it out and only on long lag putts leave the pin unattended. “It’s just the look,” some players proclaim. Myself, I am always willing to try something new. In fact in the early 80’s I was one of the first to shelve my “old school” Persimmon drivers for metal woods.

I was OK with the “new look” of the pin in, but wanted to find out more scientifically. Dave Pelz wrote earlier this year and Bryson Dechambeau proclaimed it should be left in.

While Dustin Johnson and Patrick Reed will leave it out, Justin Thomas feels like he is cheating! The new rule change was designed to speed up play, but I’m not sure that’s true because if you play in a group where one player out of the four wants it in all the time and the other three want it out it becomes a three ring circus. I was recently a walking official for the Brainerd Lakes Tour Showcase Event, a soon to be Korn Ferry Tour event up in Brainerd. It was played last weekend with a mixture of Korn Ferry, PGA Canadian and Dakota Tour players. My highly unscientific study of asking players and witnessing actual play showed that only one of the 60 or so players putted with it in.

As I said, my initial thought was that I was comfortable with it in and played that way most of the year. The only time I felt it was at a disadvantage would be at a severely uphill putt or with a brisk wind into you, especially with the larger and firmer fiberglass pins.

So I decided to do a little homework and found this study to be the best! It was done by

Here are the results.

The purpose of this study was to gain an understanding of the resulting effect that exists when a golfer leaves the flag in vs. flag out during a round of golf. This was done to ultimately determine the make vs. miss percentage and the resulting distance of putts that missed.

In the initial research it was found that:

1) SPEED – No matter the distance of the putt or whether it is downhill, sidehill, uphill or flat… it is the speed at which the ball arrives at the hole which affects the result.

2) COR – The coefficient of restitution of the flagstick (stiffness of the flag) can impact the results. The stiffer the flag, the less energy it absorbs from the ball.

There are two flag types that make up the majority golfers will encounter at their local golf course. Flag type #1 is less rigid and absorbs more energy from the ball on contact. Flag type #2 is more rigid and absorbs less energy from the ball on contact.

  • Tested the two most common type of flagsticks
  • Rolled putts with the pin in and pin out
  • Tested both center strikes and off-center strikes on the flagstick
  • Tested with the flag leaning forward and back
  • To guarantee the most reliable results they used a putting machine called the Perfect Putter
  • Each test was run at three different speeds
  • Tested with putts that would roll 3 feet, 6 feet and 9 feet past the hole
  • Collected the resulting distance of missed putts
  • Recorded both the make and miss percentage from all putts at all distances


  • Leaving the flagstick in is always an advantage vs. taking the flagstick out
  • Leaving the flagstick in also keeps the ball closer to the hole on misses
  • The less rigid flagstick has the highest make percentage and least distance after a miss
  • The most rigid flagstick is still an advantage for both makes and misses vs. flagstick out
  • Dead center strikes on the flagstick provided the best make percentage while leaving the shortest remaining distance to the hole on misses
  • Off-center strikes on the flag still provided a higher make percentage vs. flagstick out
  • While the advantage is not as significant leaning the stick forward (toward the golfer) is still an advantage vs. taking the flag out


Don’t let the tradition of pulling the flag out while you putt get in the way of shooting lower scores. Leave the pin in. “It’s one small step for golfers, one giant leap for golf.”

So there you go, scientific proof that the pin in will save you a few shots. My suggestion if you’re playing with a group of buddies and one person is adamant to have the pin out! Compromise… Tell him or her that one round you will all putt with it in then in the next round you all putt with it out. Try it you just might like it!