Dear Bonnie,
Members of the foursome I play with each week prefer to leave the flagstick in the hole when putting. I prefer it to be pulled out. However, I feel awkward in pulling it myself or asking someone else to do it when no one else wants it out. I believe I putt better when the flagstick is out, but I know it takes more time to pull the pin and put it back each time. Does it really make that much difference if the flagstick is in or out?

When you putt, it’s your personal choice whether you pull the pin or not. The time it takes to pull the flagstick out is irrelevant. If you want it out, take it out. If you believe you putt better with the flagstick out, chances are you do.

Believing in your shots has a significant influence in how well you play. Having the flagstick out may be an important mental step for you in your pre-putt routine. You will putt your best by keeping your thoughts focused on your own routine, rather than thinking about what others prefer.

Does it really make a difference if the flagstick is in or out? Maybe.

In an April 2019 GolfDigest article entitled, “The science behind why the flagstick should be pulled 99.9 percent of the time,” Mike Stachura cites a flagstick research study by Tom Mase, professor of mechanical engineering at California Polytechnic State University. According to Stachura, the Mase study concludes that leaving the flagstick in is of no benefit for 99.9 percent of putts and can actually be a detriment to making a putt.

“The flagstick does much, much more to hurt your chances of a putt going in than helping to turn a bad putt into a made one,” says Stachura.

In contrast to the Mase study, less extensive studies can be found, including informal studies by golfers, which report that more putts are made when the flagstick is in.

My belief is that where the flagstick is located when you putt can make a difference in your putting success. However, I believe the difference resides in your personal preference and in what you are thinking about, or not thinking about, when you begin your putt.

When you feel comfortable with your choice of leaving the flagstick in or taking it out, when you believe you can make the putt, and when you keep your thoughts focused, you will have your best chance of watching your ball roll into the hole.