Diegeling-Anchored Putting into the Hall of Fame

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The first of January marks implementation of the modification to the Rules of Golf banning anchored putting strokes but though many think the anchored stroke with a “belly” or “broomstick” putter is something thought up by players in recent years, it in fact has a long history.

In the 1920Diegel_Trophys future Hall of Famer Leo Diegel came up with what was tagged as “Diegeling,” a stroke with a conventional length putter but with the end of the grip pressed into his navel. Though anchored putting was not unknown–there’s at least one report of players using an anchored putting stroke from around 1900–the pro from Detroit was the first nationally prominent player to use it in and win professional tournaments.

Beginning in 1920 he took home trophies 30 times on Tour including the PGA Championship twice. Diegel had the reputation for being among the best shotmakers of his era and having an intensity that elevated the game to an all-consuming passion combined with a coolness when the competition was the toughest. In 1928 on his way to winning his first PGA Championship (then contested at match play) he defeated the great Walter Hagen in the quarter-finals knocking out “the Haig” who had won the previous four PGAs. Then in 1929 before taking care of Johnny Farrell 6 & 4 in the finals, Diegel again beat Hagen in the semi-finals.

Even early in his career he showed promise tying for second in the 1920 U.S. Open one stroke behind Englishman Ted Ray. Diegel was selected to play for the United States in the first four Ryder Cup squads and won the Canadian Open four times though it was not yet an official event on the PGA Tour. He also played a role in one of the game’s most enduring events by finishing just two shots behind Bobby Jones in the British Open of 1930, the second leg of Jones’ epic Grand Slam.Diegel_1_300x200

Diegel had a career worthy of inclusion in the Hall of Fame, albeit while “Diegeling.”

Just to keep it all in perspective with all the attention given to current stars such as Adam Scott and Bernhard Langer, many A-list players have used a belly or broomstick putter at one time or another. Plus fans will remember Charlie Owens winning won twice on the then Senior Tour wielding a 51 inch putter he had tagged “Slim Jim” that he anchored to his chest due at least in part from injuries he received during his service in the U.S. Army as a parachutist. Another outlier with a broomstick in his bag at the time was Orville Moody (“The Sarge”) who won the 1989 U.S. Senior Open.

A flood of major winners using anchored strokes was responsible for the 2013 change in Rule 14-1b making them illegal thus relegating bellies and broomsticks to history: 2011 Keegan Bradley at the PGA Championship and though not a major Bill Haas in the Tour Championship; 2012 U.S. Open-Webb Simpson and Ernie Els the Open Championship; 2013 Adam Scott the Masters.

Images courtesy of the World Golf Hall of Fame

How About Anchored Croquet-Style Putting?

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The new Rules of Golf starting the first of January disallow the use of anchored putting strokes which pretty much signs the eviction notice of long putters from golf bags. Those are ones of extra length shaft designed to be held against the stomach or chest of the user while making a stroke, thus the sobriquet bellies and broomsticks.

This is not the first time the USGA has made a fundamental change to what is allowed in the way of equipment or to the way the ball is hit. Examples coming to mind are the 2010 Rule diminishing the size of grooves on the more lofted irons and placing restrictions on the allowable cross section—the so called “box groove” ban. Or the dictum placing an upper limit on the trampoline effect or springiness of club faces? Or playing a speed limit on the golf ball, a restriction that has a disproportionate impact on average golfers compared to tour professionals.

In fact, all of these examples have had similar effect of making it more difficult for the average player…professionals have the talent and time to compensate.

However, this isn’t a rant about perceived inequity in Rules of Golf modifications but about one of the true greats of the game, Sam Snead.

The story goes during the 1966 PGA Championship Snead, who at 54-years old, though still a prodigious ball striker was having trouble making anything resembling a smooth putting stroke and in fact had the “yips.” After a double hit on short putt he switched to grasping his putter near the end of the grip with his left hand, well below the grip with his right and straddling the line as though playing croquet. The stroke looked strange and even awkward but worked with Slammin’ Sam going on to a T-6.

The next year at the PGA Seniors’ Championship Snead almost lapped the field with a nine stroke victory and even crafted a T-10 in the Masters with his croquet putting. But such unconventional a stroke wasn’t felt to be right and heaven forbid it should catch on with the golfing millions so the USGA moved quickly. January 1 of the next year, 1968, a rule was put in place stating “on the putting green a player shall not make a stroke from astride, or with either foot touching the line of the putt, or an extension of that line behind the ball.”Snead_PGAT_SideSaddle_450x430

More than a little impetus for the change may have come from another golfing great Bobby Jones who, observing Snead astride his putts at the 1967 Masters, was not pleased.

Snead acknowledged it was the USGA’s prerogative to change the Rules and rose to the occasion by placing to the left side of the ball facing the hole and continued with the, albeit modified, croquet-style stroke. He called it putting side-saddle.

The question of course is how did it work and the answer is very well. Not only did Snead win the PGA Seniors three more times but at age 62 managed at third place tie at the 1974 PGA Championship.

Images courtesy of PGA Tour

Top Ten Golf Stories of 2015

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December is the time for media outlets to roll out their list of noteworthy events during the past year and an annual “happening” for this writer going back more years than I can remember. So, here is my Top Ten and should you feel inclined to criticize please be gentle, after all it is the Holiday Season.

Tiger Woods – End of an Era?

Even when Tiger Woods isn’t playing he moves the fan interest needle and after his third back surgery last fall there’s no firm date when he can return to competition…indeed there’s no certainty he will return at all. Conceivably this could be the end of the Tiger era and in addition to the impact for him personally and the loss to fans of the chance to cheer him on, the PGA Tour and the business of golf will sorely miss him. Whether he breaks Jack Nicklaus record of majors won or indeed even wins again is not relevant, just his presence is important. The fact he contacted Ryder Cup captain Davis Love III volunteering to be a vice captain though could well symbolize transition to emeritus status.

Goodbye to Bellies and Broomsticks

As expected there’s been a lot of pontificating concerning the Jan. 1, 2016 ban of the anchored stroke which effectively means long putters, i.e., bellies and broomsticks, cannot be used for any round under the Rules of Golf. The long putter is being consigned to the dust bin of history along with concave wedges and square groove irons. So not just on the professional tours but in local tournaments, club events and in fact any round used to calculate a USGA Handicap long putters are out unless used without a third point of contact with the body. It goes without saying however, for the majority of players who never play tournament golf at any level, long putters will continue to be used with anchored strokes and the scores posted for handicaps…right along with other frequent flagrant abuses such as for a ball out of bounds, “I’ll just drop one here” and the self-concession of putts.

The New Fab Four

Move over John, Paul, George and Ringo there’s a new Fab Four—Jordan, Rory, Rickie and Jason. The “Tiger Era” may be over but there’s no doubt a new era has begun with ascendency of Jordan Spieth age 22, Rory McIlroy and Rickie Fowler both 26 plus the “old man” Jason Day who is 28. These young men are fan favorites and better yet they are all playing lights out. In 2016 we may see a fifth young man rising to the crowded top. 22-year old Justin Thomas got his first win in Malaysia in October and he hits it as long as anybody plus he proved he can take the pressure with a clutch five-footer on the 72nd green.

DeChambeau in Elite Company

Bryson DeChambeau, a senior physics major at SMU, joined the elite by winning both the U.S. Amateur and the NCAA individual trophies this past year, a single season achievement shared only with Jack Nicklaus, Phil Mickelson, Tiger Woods and Ryan Moore. He uses irons all the same length, sports a Ben Hogan style cap and quit his college team after the NCAA banned it from post season tournaments. If declares himself a professional DeChambeau would lose his invitations earned as U.S. Amateur champion to the Masters, U.S. Open and British Open. Rumor is he will wait until after the Masters but his recent foray as an amateur in the play-for-pay arena resulted in a T-2 finish in the Australian Masters and a T-30 in the Australian Open.

One for the Ages

Jordan Spieth had a career-highlight season in 2014-2015 with his five-win-two-majors romp earning $22 million that included the $10 million FedEx Cup bonus. He pushed Jason Day and Rory McIlroy out of world number one ranking, won Player of the Year and a spot on the front page of every sports section. Best of all for golf and particularly golf fans he was born in 1993 so he will be around a long, long while.

Thompson Fabulous

Lexi Thompson of the LPGA Tour won’t and doesn’t take a backseat to any player. Her primary rival is two years her junior and seems to gather a disproportionate amount of the headlines but we shouldn’t lose sight of the fact Thompson at just 20 has six wins (two this year) and one major…each coming at the expense of the teenager for New Zealand, Lydia Ko. The appealing Thompson is ranked fourth in the world and produced three out of four points for the winning U.S. Solheim Cup team for Captain Juli Inkster.

Ko Youngest Major Winner

And speaking of World Number One Lydia Ko, she won The Evian Championship besting Lexi Thompson by six stokes making her the youngest woman ever to win a major. The final round of 63 gave her the record at the age of 18 years, 4 months, 20 days beating out the previous record holder Morgan Pressel winner of the 2007 ANA Inspiration (formerly the Kraft Nabisco Championship), at 18 years, 10 months, 9 days. Ko’s record of 10 wins after two years on the LPGA Tour (five this season) is remarkable, even besting Nancy Lopez’s record. Let’s hope she can avoid burnout and the psychological burdens that seem to go with being so successful at such a young age. This is the second year she has taken the top spot and $1 million in the Race to the CME Globe. And by the way she was Rolex Player of the Year as well.

TMaG Down – Callaway Up

TaylorMade Golf has had a tough time in the past two years. With declining sales, shrinking market share, employee layoffs and three CEOs in just 18 months the largest equipment company is still on the largest but Callaway Golf under CEO Chip Brewer has undergone a resurgence trying to regain the top spot. Adding to the uncertainty of TMaG’s future, parent adidas hired an investment bank to find a buyer for sister brands Adams Golf and Ashworth. On a bright note the most recent sales numbers in October showed TMaG’s first month s

10 Rounds with the GolfBuddy LR5S

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The use of technology in golf has become commonplace and most often seen on the course in the form of distance measuring devices (DMD), both GPS based and laser. The distance to the pin is fundamental for club selection and after assessing how the ball lies provides the answer to, “what club should I hit.”

Devices using data from global positioning satellites (GPS) report yardage to the front, center and back of a green and some, the distance to carry hazards such as water guarding the putting surface. But with GPS the distance to the pin is an estimate made by the user based on what he sees. Put another way, if the GPS shows 148 yards to the center of the green and 165 yards to the back and the pin looks closer to the center than the back the user might estimate the pin location to be 155 yards.

With a laser device the answer is definitive—the pin is 153 yards. At times this is not a significant distinction but when a pin is partially hidden, say behind a bunker, the need for accuracy may be crucial and that’s an ideal use for a laser.

GolfBuddy is well-known for its hand held, clip-on and wrist model GPS devices but has made the decision to jump into the crowded laser DMD market with two new models the LR5 and LR5S. The units are similar except that the LR5S has a slope compensation feature and gives a distance readout taking into account the change in elevation.

We condGB_LR5S_screen_250x450ucted a test of the LR5S over ten rounds and right out of the box the LR5S “felt good” in the hand and at eight ounces the weight is not an issue. Ease of use is excellent with clear instructions of how to change modes and the 6X view is especially good with a diopter adjustment for the eyepiece. The lettering on the “screen” is bold and appears larger than that of competitors’ devices making it easy to read regardless of the sun’s angle.

The LR5S offers three operational modes: normal, scan and pin. Each displays the slope-adjusted yardage to the target just above the aiming crosshairs with the straight line yardage and height alternating display in the lower right. And although some may not consider this significant, the LR5S comes with a very nice hard-sided carrying case which day in and day out may not be too important but undoubtedly it gives much more protection than the usual soft cases. There is always a worry in my mind what can happen to a unit stuffed into a pocket of a golf bag and subject to the handling of an airline baggage system. The LR5S case would seem to pretty much solve that concern.

The test period wasn’t long enough to judge battery life; however, GolfBuddy estimates 5,000 actuations of the laser to be standard and at an average of 20 actuations per round that translates into 250 rounds.

Before purchasing any laser DMD be aware the USGA allows DMDs (laser and GPS) when a local rule is in place but a DMD that measures wind speed or direction, temperature or slope may not be used. So if when playing in a tournament there is doubt of the use of any DMD—not just the LR5S—check with the tournament committee but slope measuring is banned in all instances. Of course this concern could be addressed by using the GolfBuddy LR5, with similar features minus slope measurement.

Negatives: None from on course experience but the use of a laser with slope measuring in tournament play is banned.

Recommendation: The GolfBuddy LR5S at a MSRP of $300 and street price of $225 puts it in the lower end of the price range for all laser range finders and certainly much less than other slope enabled units. Combined with its solid construction and ease of use it’s a definite buy.