Ball Mark Shaft TargetFor a game of precision, golf requires a lot of guesswork, too. Here’s a classic conundrum: When facing a putt or short chip from just off the green, should you take the flag out or leave it in? 

    Any time you believe you’ve got a chance to hole a shot, you should consider these options. The basic rule of thumb is to take it out if you think the ball will be moving slowly when it reaches the hole, and leave it in if you fear it will be rolling quickly. Put another way, leave it in if you want the insurance of a backstop. Otherwise, yank it. 

    There’s no right or wrong choice in these situations – it’s a guessing game, after all – and it often comes down to personal preference. Let’s elaborate a on some of the options you might face and the conventional wisdom for pulling/leaving the flag: 

  • Playing onto a fast green and/or sharply downhill – leave the flag in.
  • Playing onto a slow green and/or uphill – take the flag out.
  • Hitting a soft, lofted pitch or chip – take the flag out.
  • Hitting a low, running chip – leave the flag in. 
  • For the purpose of depth perception, it’s wise to leave the flag in any time you’re more than 30 feet away. Also, the rules allow you to have a playing partner tend the flag when you’re off the green, but it must be removed after you hit the shot. It’s not at the tender’s discretion to leave it in based on the speed the ball is moving.