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