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flagstick

‘It’s almost invisible’: How Woodhall Spa tackled golf’s flagstick dilemma

With the Amateur Championships being held at England Golf HQ, Steve Carroll went to find out how they've dealt with one of golf's most contentious subjects
 

For the more timid putter, it’s almost enough to give you the yips. Others simply hit it hard and rattle the back. But it’s the necessary evil of playing golf in a Covid-19 world – leaving the flagstick in the hole.

With the governing bodies telling us not to lay hands on it, we’ve had to get used to putting with a veritable beam in the way at all times.

As we’ve learned they come in different sizes and, as for the foam noodle, better not to open that can of worms.

Woodhall Spa, though, may have the answer and it’s been employed to great effect as England Golf have staged their Amateur Championships this week.

The club have secured a pole with a pencil thin bottom section, which leaves the hole far more receptive to a putted ball. They’ve been in place on every hole on the Hotchkin and Bracken courses.

flagstick

“At the start of this whole outbreak, Woodhall Spa realised the flagsticks they were using were probably too thick for what they wanted,” Toby Thorne, England Golf’s deputy championship director, told NCG when asked about the novel poles.

“They are so slim. You don’t even realise it’s there. It’s almost invisible. That was a club decision. They have that in place for their members and they have the foam wrapping around the bottom.

“It’s tied to the ferrule so it doesn’t rise up if any water goes in the hole. It doesn’t get blown away.

“It’s a very low cut foam, so there is plenty of room for the ball to drop into the hole. That’s been tried and tested at the club for a number of weeks and we are very comfortable to use that at this championship.”

flagstick

And if you think they might be a bit brittle in the wind, then reconsider – they came through with flying colours when the gales got up as 288 players made their way round both courses at the Lincolnshire venue on the opening day.

“They are very robust,” added Thorne. “The bottom part of that flagstick is like steel. It’s solid and has a coating so it looks like a polished bottom. It has held up well.

“With this championship, where we have 144 players on the course one day, and the next 144 players are coming onto that same course the following day, they need to play to that same course.

“They are playing to the same hole cut each day. There has been no damage to the hole. The flagstick itself and the hole that’s been cut is as pure as any you’d get.”

At other championships, England Golf will be using the Tacit ball lifters, with the Covid-19 clip. They can be fitted to flagsticks and allow golfers to retrieve their ball by positioning a putter under the clip and pulling upwards.

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Steve Carroll

Steve Carroll

A journalist for 25 years, Steve has been immersed in club golf for almost as long. A former club captain, he has passed the Level 3 Rules of Golf exam with distinction having attended the R&A's prestigious Tournament Administrators and Referees Seminar.

Steve has officiated at a host of high-profile tournaments, including Open Regional Qualifying, PGA Fourball Championship, English Men's Senior Amateur, and the North of England Amateur Championship. In 2023, he made his international debut as part of the team that refereed England vs Switzerland U16 girls.

A part of NCG's Top 100s panel, Steve has a particular love of links golf and is frantically trying to restore his single-figure handicap. He currently floats at around 11.

Steve plays at Close House, in Newcastle, and York GC, where he is a member of the club's matches and competitions committee and referees the annual 36-hole scratch York Rose Bowl.

Having studied history at Newcastle University, he became a journalist having passed his NTCJ exams at Darlington College of Technology.

What's in Steve's bag: TaylorMade Stealth 2 driver, 3-wood, and hybrids; TaylorMade Stealth 2 irons; TaylorMade Hi-Toe, Ping ChipR, Sik Putter.

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