ted on the outside of a ball. Fortunately, fuller heads prevailed, sparing us the task of counting dimples and determining their depth, size, edge defi ni- tion, etc. This is the type of thinking that results when nontechnical minds try to govern a technical issue; without intelligent inter- vention, chaos might have ensued, and the standards black hole we are approach- ing would have long since swallowed us up.
They argued that it should be a permitted variation for those who may have physi- cal problems that would not allow them to putt in a traditional style, questioned why the USGA should limit individual technique and stifl e innovation, and cited the history and tradition of the croquet style of putting as well as the effect that this rules change would have on professionals and the club sales. However, in an unconscious echo of the
In the mid 1960s, manufacturers generally introduced new club models every fi ve years. There was very little difference in their products, since every club maker had the same factory equipment and the differences in club design were more aesthetic than performance-based.
Sometimes all it takes to
create a new rule is one cre- ative or desperate individ- ual. In 1967, frustrated by his putting yips, Sam Snead unveiled his “squat shot” stroke and used it to win the Senior PGA Champi- onship. Snead insisted he could putt better by facing the hole directly, so he stood behind the ball, gripped the putter with one hand at the top and another far down the shaft, and pulled it back and through as in a croquet shot. According to the annual
report of the Implements and Ball Committee in 1967, the croquet style had been “long approved.” Even so, Snead’s efforts triggered a fi erce debate. There were strong advocates for the style, with the President of the USGA at the time as well as a former President, an ex-Senator, and two pre- vious Captains of the R&A being croquet-style putters.
R&A’s debate over center- shafted clubs, the Executive Director, Joseph Dey, Jr., and the Executive Com- mittee felt that they had to “preserve golf as golf ” and “prevent it being modifi ed into another game.” So, in 1968 the Rules
of Golf prohibited strad- dling the line of putt. At the same time, a restriction was placed on the lie angle of the putter, requiring that the putter shaft diverge from the vertical by at least 10 degrees (Appendix II-1, d(i)). The latter of the two changes strikes me as a good way to handle the situation: rather than ban- ning a technique or method, which then must be defi ned with potentially unforesee- able consequences, insert a simple specifi cation that makes the improper tech- nique impossible or at least very awkward. (The USGA later had to add a clarifi - cation that it was OK to
straddle the line of a tap-in if doing so to avoid stepping in another player’s line—an unforeseen complication.) Snead adapted by switching to a side-saddle style, stand- ing beside the ball with both feet facing the hole and gripping the club as he had in the croquet style. He won two more Senior PGA Championships using this method of putting. The side-saddle putting
style helped golfers who had developed the “yips,” but it called for an awk- ward stance that put a lot of strain on the back. For this reason, the long putter made its entrance into the game, enabling the player to gain the benefi t of pivot- ing the putter off a fi xed point (the anchored upper hand) without having to bend over as though tying his shoe. We gave serious con-
sideration to declaring the long putter to be noncon- forming, using the “tra- ditional and customary” clause as justifi cation and the ban on croquet-style putting as precedent. The I&B committee discussed it in detail at a meeting in Atlanta in 1989, shortly af- ter the Ping grooves lawsuit was fi led, also shortly after Orville Moody’s victory in the Senior Open with a long putter. Moody ex- pressed his concern about rumors that the putter might be banned; so did club manufacturers, their “expression” including vague whispers about a possible lawsuit. With the sound of recent litigation still pinging in their ears, the Execu- tive Committee decided to declare the long putter to be
conforming, contrary to my recommendation. As this example demonstrates, an increasingly important po- litical thread is the relation- ship between the USGA and the equipment makers. In the early days, manufacturers of golf equip- ment were generally small businesses with a famous golfer or club maker as the founder or one of the partners. Their importance derived more from the quality of their workman- ship than from their size. As mass production became possible and acceptable, the companies began to grow; the introduction of steel