In the final round of the 2017 Travelers Championship, Jordan Spieth holed out from 60 feet for birdie from a greenside bunker to win the tournament. This was not the first time in the 2017 that a tournament came down to shot around the green for a decision.
The same year at the Zurich Classic of New Orleans, Kevin Kisner holed 90-foot pitch shot for eagle on the par-5 18th hole to help earn a spot in the playoff with his teammate Scott Brown. Although Kisner and Brown were unable to prevail in the playoff, Kisner’s remarkable effort was one of the best shots of the season.
A controversial topic that I usually get asked about a lot is should you take the flagstick out on chip shots and when? Both of the shots from Spieth and Kisner were tracking right towards the hole, but are you typically better off pulling the pin before shots around the green?
There are obviously different schools of thought on the subject. My answer would be it depends on your skill level. The better your skill level is at chipping, the more the flagstick will hurt you because it really only helps you on a dead center hit that has too much speed.
If you have the ability to control the speed of your chip shots once it hits the green then you might as well pull the flagstick to allow the ball to use the maximum circumference of the hole. As we saw on Kevin Kisner’s chip shot, it was moving quite quickly when it reached the hole, so the flagstick may have actually helped his cause.
However, players with less skill level often struggle with controlling their speed once a chip or pitch shot hits the green. They are usually not thinking about making the shot but trying not to mess it up. Saving the discussion for what a correct attitude should be for later, if you are not 100 percent thinking about making the shot, then you should leave the flagstick in.
The flagstick will more often than not slow down an errant shot and keep it closer to the hole, and on occasion if struck squarely, will cause the ball to fall in the hole. A player of Kevin Kisner’s skill level was absolutely thinking of making his shot and would have been in the aggressive mindset whether the flagstick was pulled or not.
The ultimate goal with any of my students is to be so confident that when they are within a yard or two from the green they would feel confident enough in their abilities to be able to pull the flagstick. But if any doubt of speed control creeps in then it is counter-productive and will only lead to inconsistent short game shots around the green. So if you feel that your short game is a weapon and you are going to be in attack mode, do not be afraid to pull the flag to allow the ball the maximum amount of space to go in the hole.