Putting Decisions After the 2019 Rule Change: Pin In or Pin Out?

Nick Hagen Opinion Leave a Comment

I remember a scramble event a few pals and I played in this Summer.  We had a good team together, and were playing well as a group. 

Towards the end of the round, we were faced with a relatively simple up and down.  It was a long par 4 hole, and we found ourselves pin high in a chipping situation (though it was close, and putting could have been a play). 

Looking back, it was interesting how the group viewed the play, and what decisions were made regarding the pin.

Our lie was just into the rough, with only a bit of fringe after, and about ten feet of flat green to the cup.  With several inches of rough in front, and then fringe to work with, we all decided on chipping. 

This turned out to be a wise play, as our 3rd man chipped in for birdie.  We finished 2nd in the event, but that was an important hole that kept us in the top two teams (versus a par that would have dropped us to T-3).

A Jordan Spieth putt heads towards the pin during the final round of…

A Jordan Spieth putt heads towards the pin during the final round of the Fort Worth Invitational at the Colonial Country Club in Fort Worth, Texas. Get premium, high resolution news photos at Getty Images

With this chip shot, we were all thinking of making this.  It was not a very difficult shot, but the odds of making this were lower than if we had the same distance on the putting green itself. 

The chip that went in for our birdie, did so by colliding with the pin and dropping into the cup.  It did have some speed on it (hopping), and most likely would have finished up several feet from the cup if the pin had not gotten in the way. 

It was a good aggressive play, and with our first two chips being within the one foot range, it was perfect.  It got me to thinking about our rule changes into 2019, whether we’ll keep the pin in, or pull it on the greens.

This shot in-particular was personal preference.  Our first playing partner desired the pin to be out while he chipped, and then the remaining three of us wanted the pin left in. 

For me, I look at a chip with good speed falling into the cup anyway (regardless if the pin is in, or out).  And, if an example like ours comes up, it’s nice to have that backstop. 

Over the years playing golf, I personally have had far more chips, pitches, and putts fall from off the green while the pin is in.  Again, it’s just personal preference.  There are many players that prefer the pin to be pulled in those situations, too.  I’m sure we’ve all heard the same phrase, “if you’re serious about making it, you pull the pin.”  There is truth to this, most definitely, as the last thing you want is a good shot bouncing off the pin to miss.  On a windy day where the pin may be leaning to one side of the cup, that’s a good day to pull it.

Thinking into 2019, I’m curious to see how our playing groups will treat the pin situation.  My initial thought is, nothing much will change since we’ve gotten used to a familiar routine over all the years (once everyone is putting, you simply pull the flagstick). 

In tournament play (aside from perhaps local rules governing), it may be just a fun ice-breaker type conversation.  If you said, “excuse me guys, we’re all pretty much in agreement we’ll putt with the flag out while putting, correct?” this might get a few chuckles early on about the new rule.  For the casual rounds, I do welcome the new rule as I can see a nice time saving element.

Justin Rose of England holds the pin flag on hole one during day four…

Justin Rose of England holds the pin flag on hole one during day four of the Aberdeen Standard Investments Scottish Open at Gullane Golf Course on July 15, 2018 in Gullane, Scotland. Get premium, high resolution news photos at Getty Images

It will come down to preference in the group for casual rounds, and the courtesy during tournament play.  How many times have you practiced putting before a round with the pin left in?  My guess is, it’s been part of a normal process before you go out to play.  I often practice at our local course’s putting green with the pin left in, but just as often pull the flag. 

If I’m out to the golf course late in the day and just play a few practice holes before dark, I also will leave the pin in to putt…just for the sake of time.  It hasn’t been much of a bother to me leaving the pin in or out while practicing, and plan on the same for 2019.  

Golf being golf, it will be important to groups though, and back to the point of group preference. For the most part, I’m sure it will be business as usual on the greens.

The part I am very interested in, is with the Tour events.  If statistics come up showing an advantage to leaving the pin in, that will be interesting to watch the strategy. 

It seems all it takes sometimes is for a pro golfer to have success with a strategy, and the rest follow suit.  For the pace of the game, and for this penalty-free solution (aside from a local rule), I like this update.


About Nick Hagen

Nick played four years of NCAA D-III golf in the No.1 role, and contributes from the low handicap perspective.  With several medalist finishes in college combined with six local tournament wins in Wisconsin, Nick will look to share tips along with experience

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