After a few weeks of experimentation, I have decided to convert to “side saddle,” or “face on” putting. There are a few rules issues associated with this style that I would like to touch on.
Side saddle’s most famous practitioner was Sam Snead, who converted mid-career after a bout of the yips made conventional putting impossible for him.
I’ve been facing the same kind of issues lately. The transition from my backswing to forward swing has become totally erratic. I’d step up to a five-foot putt wondering what the next putt would be. Snead originally settled on “croquet” style putting, until the rules outlawed straddling the line of the putt. He countered by standing off to the side and leaning over to his right so his eyes would be over the line. Here is Sam before and after:
There are two rules issues to take in to account here. First is the definition of “Line of Putt”
“The line of putt is the line the player wishes his ball to take after a stroke on the putting green. Except with respect to Rule 16-1e, the line of putt includes a reasonable distance on either side of the intended line. The line of putt does not extend beyond the hole.”
Then Rule 16-1e, “Standing Astride or on Line of Putt”
“The player must not make a stroke of the putting green from a stance astride, or with either foot touching, the line of putt or an extension of that line behind the ball.”
This is the rule change which forced Snead to change his style. For practical purposes, it means that when putting side saddle, you must be careful that your foot does not touch the line of putt behind the ball. This is important since the player needs to lean over to get his eyes directly over the ball. Of course, you don’t want to hit your shoe with the club during the stroke, either!
Additionally, the lie of the club head, or the angle of the sole of the club to the shaft, must be at least ten degrees off vertical. Most conventional putters have a lie angle of around 71 to 72 degrees. The closer to vertical the lie angle, the easier it is to make a pure straight back and straight through stroke. My putter, made by Bobby Grace, is set at an 80 degree lie angle, the maximum allowable.
There is one other part of this rule that few know about: It is legal to stand astride the line when putting from off the green. Standing this way, as Snead originally did, gives the player the best possible chance of aligning absolutely perfectly. I did in fact to this twice in today’s round while putting from the fringe.
So far, the results are encouraging. I hit every putt but one today on the line I intended. Didn’t always read them right, but I hit them where I wanted to. When the ban on anchoring goes in to effect at the end of this season, I would expect to see more players convert to side saddle.