Why We Should All Leave The Flag In For Good

Fergus Bisset thinks club level players would enjoy their golf more if we did

Why we should all leave the flag in
Why should we leave the flag in?
(Image credit: Tom Miles)

Fergus Bisset thinks club level players would enjoy their golf more if everyone continued to leave the flag in despite the relaxing of Covid restrictions.

Why We Should All Leave The Flag In For Good

There’s one simple reason why we should all leave the flag in – pace of play.

When Covid restrictions were in place and we were required to leave the flag in, there’s no question the pace of play improved.

Not only was there no discussion about whether partners wanted the flag in or out, but people also seemed inclined to just get on with it and finish out more readily – to play “ready golf.”

Since the restrictions have been relaxed and people are able to have the pin removed again, reports suggest, and I have certainly noticed the pace of play increasing again.

It shouldn’t be underestimated just how much time is wasted messing about removing and replacing the flag.

In a group of three or four, with different preferences on flag in or out, time is added on each green: asking the question, moving to, and then physically removing/replacing the stick a couple of times or more…

Perhaps a minute, or even a couple of minutes per hole is added. That’s 18+ minutes per round; enough to tip a reasonably speedy round over into being a slightly slow one.

Then, if every group is faffing on the greens in this fashion, the course becomes congested, backs up and play is further delayed.

At my home course, Banchory in Aberdeenshire, I would say that when we were required to leave the flag in, my average round time in bounce games was 2 hours 50 minutes.

Now the flag can come out again, I reckon average bounce game time is up to around 3 hours 10 minutes.

It’s the fickering about with the flag that has made the difference – no doubt about it.

Now, I should say that I prefer to putt with the flag out for shorter putts – I guess because I’ve always done it and I just feel the hole looks bigger without the stick there.

As I can now have it removed again, I am… So I am part of the problem.

But I was getting used to having the flag in when restrictions were in place and, on balance, I’d rather continue learning to accept the flag being in and get round 20 minutes quicker than to aim at an empty cup and be standing around on tees and fairways twiddling my thumbs.

I also accept you can get some bad breaks with the flag in. But if we were all required to leave it in, the chance of a bounce out would be the same for everyone.

Also, the type of pin makes a big difference. If you have pins with a thin bottom section, ballooning higher up to keep them stable in the wind, the chance of bouncing off is greatly lessened.

I would have thought pin manufacturers could develop pins going forward that could be even thinner at the base, using stronger materials to further reduce the chances of unlucky breaks.

The problem is, as I mentioned above, given we’re allowed to have the flag out now – most (including me) will do so from mid-short range.

We would either need a rule-change or a collective decision from club golfers across the land to accept a new “pin-in normal,” no matter what…

I think the latter is even less likely to happen than the former but hey, it’s worth a shot… If everyone else agrees to the pin staying in for good, I’m up for it. What do you all say?

Fergus Bisset
Contributing Editor

Fergus is a golf obsessive and 1-handicapper. Growing up in the North East of Scotland, golf runs through his veins and his passion for the sport was bolstered during his time at St Andrews university studying history. He went on to earn a post graduate diploma from the London School of Journalism. Fergus has worked for Golf Monthly since 2004 and has written two books on the game; "Great Golf Debates" together with Jezz Ellwood of Golf Monthly and "The Ultimate Golf Book" together with Neil Tappin (also of Golf Monthly)... Fergus once shanked a ball from just over Granny Clark's Wynd on the 18th of the Old Course that struck the St Andrews Golf Club and rebounded into the Valley of Sin, from where he saved par. Who says there's no golfing god?