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Practice Makes Perfect July 5, 2019 By Elliott Dowling, agronomist, Northeast Region

Use full-size flagsticks on a practice green so players can practice removing their ball from the hole with the flagstick in.

There have been a lot of conversations lately about the changes to the Rules of Golf. Many of the changes are geared toward improving pace of play such as the rule allowing players to putt with the flagstick in the hole without fear of a penalty if the ball hits the flagstick. While this change can certainly speed up play, it can also impact course conditioning.

A common concern about this change among superintendents and golfers is that the potential for damaging the edge of the hole increases when removing your ball from the hole with the flagstick in. It is up to golfers to be careful when removing their ball with the flagstick in the hole, as damaging the edges could affect playability for those behind you. The best way to master removing a ball from the hole with the flagstick in is through practice.

On a visit to Independence Golf Club in Midlothian, Virginia, I noticed that the facility was being proactive on this issue to reduce the likelihood of damaged holes. Rather than use short practice green flagsticks with a solid bottom, they now use full-size flagsticks. They didn’t make this change because they noticed more damaged holes, they simply wanted to get ahead of any potential problems. The hope is that most golfers will leave the flagstick in while putting, giving them a chance to practice removing the ball without causing any damage.

If your course is either seeing damage now or doesn’t want to see damage in the future, consider switching the traditional practice green flagsticks to the full-size versions. Making this change requires no adjustment to practice green maintenance, holes should still be cut and moved as normal. The big upside is that players can practice carefully removing their ball from the hole with a full-size flagstick in place. Hopefully this extra practice reduces the risk of causing damage around the edges of the hole when golfers are on the course.


Northeast Region Agronomists:

David A. Oatis, regional director –

Adam Moeller, director, Green Section Education –

Elliott Dowling, agronomist –

Paul Jacobs, agronomist –

Information on the USGA’s Course Consulting Service 

Contact the Green Section Staff

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