It’s all about the coefficient of restitution

By Paul Gueorgieff
Editor, Golfer Pacific NZ

Here’s a prediction for 2019.

By the end of the year many golfers, including the professionals, will not bother having the flagstick removed from the hole at all.

I have been experimenting with the new rule that allows you to leave the flagstick in the hole when putting on the green.

And my early conclusion is not to have the pin removed at all. Long putts, medium putts or short putts, it doesn’t matter.

In fact I am now believing that leaving the flagstick in the hole helps with putting in general.

How could that be, you ask.

My theory is this. The flagstick is in the centre of the hole and that gives you something definitive to aim at. An empty hole is not so definitive.

Oddly enough this very theory was mentioned by former New Zealand golfer Frank Nobilo who we best know these days as a television commentator on the PGA Tour in the United States.

Don’t get me wrong. You are not, for example, never going to miss a shortish putt again. But having the pin in the centre of hole gives you something to focus on. Keeping that focus is important.

The first question I was asked when I declared to friends that I would in future be leaving the flag in on all occasions was how many times did the ball bounce out.

The answer was none and remains none after a full month of doing so.

I am perhaps a little lucky that the club I play at in Wellington has metal flagsticks. In other words the flag remains fairly erect even in Wellington’s winds. But that does not stop flagstick leaning in one direction and I have not yet had cause to remove a flag.

I may re-evaluate that situation when I come to a course that has fibreglass-like flagsticks which bend considerably in a strong wind.

American golfer Bryson DeChambeau has been a leader on the PGA Tour in leaving the flagstick in the hole. DeChambeau went to the length of getting many of the flagsticks he would encounter at the different venues on the tour tested for their firmness, or as he described it the “coefficient of restitution’’.

I have looked those words up in the dictionary and they appear to form the correct phrase. Please use this line to impress your friends.

I also have another theory that a flagstick may avoid the occasional horseshoe, where the ball rings the hole and stays out. I believe if the ball touches the flagstick there is chance the ball will go slightly downward which might be enough to ensure the ball goes all the way downward.

I was so convinced by my theories that I did some homework on the subject. I came across an article on a study that had been conducted by top golf teacher Dave Pelz.

To get straight to the point, Pelz, prior to the change of rules, concluded: “Leave the flagstick in whenever the rules allow, unless it is leaning so far toward you that the ball can’t fit.”

Pelz rolled thousands of balls at the hole with the pin in, out, and leaning in each direction. Three of his conclusions were:

“One. Perhaps most surprising, when the flagstick leans either slightly toward the golfer or away, the odds of it helping to keep the ball in the hole increase: With the flagstick leaning away from the golfer, the hole becomes effectively larger; when the flagstick leans toward the golfer, the ball rebounds downward, again helping shots find the hole.

“Two. Only in the most obvious case, when the flagstick is leaning so far toward the golfer that there isn’t enough room for the ball, is leaving the flagstick in a bad idea.

“Three. Even if you don’t hit the flagstick dead centre, it still will aid you. It proved especially advantageous when chipping downhill and at faster speeds. I even believe the flagstick should be left in when you’re putting from an inch or two off the green in the fringe. The flagstick will help you make more putts unless it is leaning severely toward you or it’s so windy that it is moving and might knock your ball away.’’

A reminder this study was conducted long before the change of rules. I would suggest Pelz today is advising everyone to leave the flagstick in.

There was one occasion last month where a playing partner hit the pin from a long distance and the ball bounced away. He reckoned that was a reason why the pin should be removed. I argued that the ball may not have gone in anyway because it was travelling too fast. We have all seen a ball ring the hole even when we have thought the ball was going in.

Sarah HeadComment