A Lesson Learned: To pull the pin or not?

Luke Donald, chipping
Getty Images
Luke Donald needed to hole this chip to extend the playoff at The Heritage. He almost did. Should he have kept the pin in?
Kevin Weeks, PGA

Problem Area: Short Game
Series: Lesson Learned

Published: Sunday, April 24, 2011 | 9:41 p.m.

It was another great tournament and great playoff finish for The Heritage this past weekend. This is one of the most popular events, with fans and players, on the PGA Tour and I think it's safe to say that everyone in golf is hoping that the event will take place next year and for many years thereafter.

The outstanding 64 that Brandt Snedeker put up on Sunday is what many people will remember, but don't forget about his clutch playoff performance after sitting idle for some time while waiting to see how Luke Donald and others finished.

But the one question I know many golf fans will be asking is: Did Luke Donald make the right decision to pull the pin on the shot that ended the tournament.

To recap: On the third playoff hole, the 18th, Luke found the bunker on his approach where the ball actually ended up in the dreaded "fried egg." He hit a pretty good shot out, but the ball had no spin and ran through the green, ending up on the fringe about fifteen feet from the cup.

It was a makeable, straight chip with a good lie. His chip hit the back of the cup and spun away a few feet. Tournament over, Snedeker and his par on the hole, wins.

Immediately, people started to question if the pulling the pin was the right move. On a chip with a little too much heat, wouldn't the pin have helped?

To me, this is an easy one. Luke Donald absolutely made the right call in pulling the pin. I've always contended that the pin does not help a good shot. In general, the pin takes up valuable real estate (the hole) and getting it out of the way is beneficial to your hopes of holing the shot.

The caveat here is when you are facing a downhill chip, a tough lie and/or some combination of both. In other words, if you could use the help to keep a ball from running far away, by all means keep the flag in. But in this instance, it was do or die. Donald had to MAKE the chip. His decision was correct. His execution was almost perfect. In this instance, almost wasn't good enough to extend the playoff.

Kevin Weeks is the Director of Instruction at Cog Hill Golf Club, host site of the 2011 BMW Championship. Weeks is a three-time Illinois Section Teacher of the Year as well as a valued friend and instructor to several players on the PGA Tour. You can follow him at Kevin Weeks Golf Instruction on Facebook. 

Try this ...



You make a good point, Thomas - I'll try post the link but not sure if it will let me.

If it doesn't work, just search "Flag in our out Dave Pelz" and you'll find it.


Kevin Weeks and Luke Donald are entitled to their opinions about whether to leave the pin in or not , but I'll have to go with the science. After thousands of trials Dave Pelz's data showed that chips from off the green and even putts from on the green have a better chance of being holed out if the pin is in.


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