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I知 Being Pulled In A New Direction: How To Putt Sidesaddle

sidesaddle

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#1 zakkozuchowski

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Posted 21 December 2012 - 01:07 PM

Posted Image

I’m Being Pulled In A New Direction: How To Putt Sidesaddle

By Ronald S. Montesano

GolfWRX Contributor

Now that the shoe has dropped and the two major governing bodies of golf have announced a plan to ban anchoring in the golf swing, a fair number of golfers and golf fans are left to ask myriad questions, such as “why now?” and “what options do I have?” Enough writers have taken pains to clarify that the anchor point is banned, not the long putter shaft. Hopefully word gets out and assuages the multitude of torn souls whose salvation was heisted. After enough stages of grief have passed, perhaps these former dilettantes of dwarf will consider life beyond the anchor. For them, and as a fellow sufferer, I offer this piece of solace through the maelstrom.

Face The Music
If you saw the golf movie Seven Days In Utopia, based on the book of the same name by David Cook, you know that the protagonist (spoiler alert!) adopted face-on putting to prompt a return to the professional golfing circuit. The question how would you toss a golf ball to the hole is anything but a zen koan; the answer is simple. You would not stand sideways to the hole and toss it under your lead shoulder, as you essentially do with a traditional putting stroke. Instead, just as you shoot a basket, you would square your shoulders to the target and toss the ball underhanded. You would probably come pretty close to the hole, too. Recent history has veiled the identity of the individual who developed face-on putting, but Gary McCord has written about it in golf magazines and Randy Haag (a northern California amateur) has parlayed its use into regional victories and national amateur success at the mid-amateur level. Even PGA Tour player K.J. Choi gave it a try in 2010 in the British Open!

Posted Image

After Sam Snead’s croquet style was ruled non-complying by the USGA in the late 1960s, Snead went to sidesaddle putting. In those days, the longer putter shaft was nearly non-existent, so Snead went to work with a traditional-length putter. He putted well, winning four West Virginia Open championships and three PGA Senior championships with the method. Randy Haag is a champion amateur golfer from northern California and has been putting face-on for more than 16 years. For a look at his competitive record, visit http://randyhaag.com/about/ and locate any wins and honors from 1997 on. Credit those to the switch.

With face-on putting, I suggest that you find a lengthened putter. It might be the belly one that you imagined you’d use to stake your garden, or it might be one a bit longer. Be certain that you don’t anchor your upper hand to your shoulder (remember the ban?), but that you instead find a way to stabilize the upper hand (the fulcrum) below where the club shaft and head swing. If you are a right-handed putter, position your right foot slightly ahead of the left and then work on horizontal and vertical ball position. Horizontal spacing measures how far “out” from your right foot the ball rests, while vertical spacing determines whether the ball is behind, ahead of or even with the tip of your right shoe. Finally, start practicing.

Posted Image

After working for all of three or four sessions on the aforementioned personal putting green, I played 27 holes at a course between Buffalo and Rochester in early December. I was stunned to find the greens stimping at 9 or 10, simulating in-season conditions. To my partner’s amazement, I did not miss a putt inside 10 feet all day. I’ll admit that I didn’t have any long putts with enormous break (the next hurdle), but I did find my long-distance pace rather quickly. One or two of the 50-feet plus putts were pushed a foot or two off line, but the distance was excellent, leaving me with no more than 2-3 feet for the comebacker.

Here’s my check list for a successful side-saddle safari:
  • Find a putter length with which you feel comfortable. I prefer longer shaft, as I don’t want to bend over and strain my lower back.
  • Find a putter head that minimizes off-center hit penalties. I changed from an Anser-style head to a Two-Ball mallet for that reason.
  • Determine if you want to putt with your left or right foot forward, or have both feet even.
  • Determine where to situate the ball, both vertically and laterally. There are many options here, just as with a regular stance: ball forward, even with toes or behind toes. Ball tight against foot or farther away.
  • Practice, Practice, Practice. One of the reasons Ernie Els indicated he putted so well with the belly putter was the need for practice. He had putted traditionally for so long that he got lazy and stopped grinding. With the belly putter, there was always enough light at the end of the tunnel that he kept working and kept improving, all the way to a British Open title.
  • Putt for something. Find great putters and putt against them for sodas or change or golf balls (or big stakes, if you like). You need to simulate the same pressure you’ll feel on the golf course.
Conclusion

I’ve always been a streaky putter and have often told new partners in May, in the midst of taking 40 putts in a round, that I’ll be down to 28 or 30 in a month and that they will be stunned to find me putting so well. I’m quite interested in taking face-on putting to two levels in 2013. I will begin the season with it, then plan to use it in regional qualifiers for New York State and Buffalo District amateur events. My opinion is that friends will give me good-natured grief for using the method. They will be less inclined to continue the banter when I continue to putt lights out. I expect the reaction in the heat of competition to be much less cordial. Assuming that I am able to control my emotions and execute, I anticipate utterances of:


That can’t be legal
Some guys will have no shame and
If I putted like that…


Truthfully, none of that will matter. If I want to get the ball in the hole and shoot the best score I can, and if sidesaddle or face-on or whatever you call it gives me that opportunity, so be it. If they say That’s not a golf swing. I’ll ask them, “Was Kareem Abdul-Jabbar’s sky hook a set shot?” That should quiet the masses. Check back here at GolfWRX.com and learn of my progress.


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#2 swanry30

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Posted 21 December 2012 - 01:13 PM

great write up!
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#3 Dscvrr St Louis

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Posted 21 December 2012 - 01:35 PM

Very interesting...I can see where a lot of long and belly users may adopt something similar.  Obviously with the long putter, one would have to make sure to not let the upper forearm rest on the body anywhere when putting..but I can see where this would be a solid idea to try for those that are short putter challenged!
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#4 Troyefl

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Posted 21 December 2012 - 01:42 PM

View PostDscvrr St Louis, on 21 December 2012 - 01:35 PM, said:

Very interesting...I can see where a lot of long and belly users may adopt something similar.  Obviously with the long putter, one would have to make sure to not let the upper forearm rest on the body anywhere when putting..but I can see where this would be a solid idea to try for those that are short putter challenged!
Exactly, I messed around with this a little and it really is more comfortable with the forearm aganinst the body, but it is a rule violation.  Will keep messing around with it, great write up!

#5 nbg352

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Posted 21 December 2012 - 02:07 PM

As a right hander I found it easier to go left handed for some reason. It just seems easier with the right hand anchoring the grip end and left hand completing the stroke.
I guess where I'm going here is that many of you may have difficulty using this method from your natural side. If you find it to be too difficult, don't give up on it.  Try it from the other side. You may just find what I did. A new putting stroke.

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#6 MadGolfer76

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Posted 21 December 2012 - 02:54 PM

Love me some side-saddle putting. I use it on shorter putts, but use the shorter putter with it. Last season - didn't miss a single putt inside 5 feet whenever I went sidey. That wasn't too often, but on any putt that needed to be holed, I turned things sideways and in they went.
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#7 hebron1427

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Posted 21 December 2012 - 03:02 PM

how does this not violate the lie angle rules?

#8 nbg352

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Posted 21 December 2012 - 03:15 PM

From the angle of that picture, I'd say that putter does violate the rule. Most side saddle putters would be pretty much normal lies, up to about 75*, depending on preferred length
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#9 richardghart

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Posted 21 December 2012 - 04:02 PM

That is pretty cool, I have never thought about using that style of putting before. It looks like something I might get into.

Edited by Riuzzi, 21 December 2012 - 05:50 PM.


#10 nohny noke

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Posted 21 December 2012 - 04:40 PM

i've been sidesaddle putting for a few years.  thanks for the article, but you forgot one thing- putting sidesaddle is FUN!  it's downright addicting and i feel like i should make every putt.  for me it's a stress-free, natural move that's easily repeatable.  i've had the most success when i look at the hole while making the stroke and go with my instincts re: line and speed.  

get a double-bend shaft, install it in a lefty head, and get your hand more over the ball for an even more "ball tossing" motion.  

only issue i've had is out of the fringe.  that's issue of (lack of) practice, though.

this is the future (and past) of putting, folks!


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#11 ZNatural

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Posted 21 December 2012 - 05:18 PM

I like traditional putting, but am sure I'll be seeing this more often.
Thanks for the article.

#12 indyvai

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Posted 21 December 2012 - 06:59 PM

View Postnbg352, on 21 December 2012 - 02:07 PM, said:

As a right hander I found it easier to go left handed for some reason. It just seems easier with the right hand anchoring the grip end and left hand completing the stroke.
I guess where I'm going here is that many of you may have difficulty using this method from your natural side. If you find it to be too difficult, don't give up on it.  Try it from the other side. You may just find what I did. A new putting stroke.

I was thinking the same thing... I played hockey and lacrosse left handed... so that seems more natural.  Not going to replace the short putter in my arsenal, but will be used just like I used to long putter... for fun here and there.

And I think I have a lefty head and single bend long shaft... hmm...

But I think in general some people will give this a try as an fu to the man.

#13 nbg352

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Posted 21 December 2012 - 07:17 PM

View Postindyvai, on 21 December 2012 - 06:59 PM, said:

View Postnbg352, on 21 December 2012 - 02:07 PM, said:

As a right hander I found it easier to go left handed for some reason. It just seems easier with the right hand anchoring the grip end and left hand completing the stroke.
I guess where I'm going here is that many of you may have difficulty using this method from your natural side. If you find it to be too difficult, don't give up on it.  Try it from the other side. You may just find what I did. A new putting stroke.

I was thinking the same thing... I played hockey and lacrosse left handed... so that seems more natural.  Not going to replace the short putter in my arsenal, but will be used just like I used to long putter... for fun here and there.

And I think I have a lefty head and single bend long shaft... hmm...

But I think in general some people will give this a try as an fu to the man.
It's as good a reason as any....
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#14 ibradley

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Posted 21 December 2012 - 07:25 PM

The best amateur putter I have ever played with putts side saddle. He is currently in his 70's and regularly beats his age. He has been a top amateur golf for 40 years putting side saddle. His lag putting is just ok, maybe a 2 handicap lag putter, but inside 10 feet he seems to never miss.

#15 Hattori Hanzo

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Posted 22 December 2012 - 09:05 AM

Interesting...

I have a 45" belly putter that I was just going to cut down to 39" or so, but I might give this a try!

For those of you who have tried side-saddle, where are your eyes when you are putting? On the ball? The hole?

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#16 bosoxfan

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Posted 24 December 2012 - 10:36 AM

so the lie angle of a normal belly putter is close enough to give it a try?  I guess always thought it was a completely different set up???
KH

#17 nohny noke

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Posted 24 December 2012 - 12:49 PM

I putt best sidesaddle with my eyes looking at the hole, just like I would roll a ball with my hand.  

It's not necessary to have a different putter to putt from the side.  Just face the hole and go.

#18 spryevo

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Posted 25 December 2012 - 02:32 PM

What about head weight though?  Would sidesaddle use something like 330g?  Or lighter, like an older putter, 300g or so.  Or heavier like 360-370g, like I've seen some people trend to?
I know a lot of it is personal preference, but opinions are interesting to hear.

#19 FBDom

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Posted 26 December 2012 - 02:26 PM

I'm intrigued, definitely interested in following your progress

#20 nbg352

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Posted 27 December 2012 - 11:13 AM

Length is personal choice.
Weight is personal choice.
Lie angle should allow the eyes to easily get behind the ball, on line with your target
Look at the hole, trust your stroke (don't steer), make the stroke.

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#21 endy

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Posted 27 December 2012 - 02:54 PM

Great article, I have been trying different versions of this for a while, if nothing else, it is kinda fun

#22 plus8

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Posted 28 December 2012 - 05:32 AM

This is interesting - may give it a try since I'm always looking to improve my (dubious) putting game.  So what about lie (shaft angle)? Do you need a straight up-and-down shaft for this?

Edited by plus8, 28 December 2012 - 05:32 AM.


#23 Eag1e

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Posted 28 December 2012 - 08:32 AM

I've always noticed a high level of comfort and consistency just grabbing my putter with my right (dominant) hand, standing directly behind the ball, and hitting with the *back* of the blade. In other words, holding the putter normally and with only my right hand, then rotating my arm so my palm is facing my body, and moving the back of my hand toward my target. Anything illegal about this?

#24 gvogel

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Posted 28 December 2012 - 12:50 PM

View PostEag1e, on 28 December 2012 - 08:32 AM, said:

I've always noticed a high level of comfort and consistency just grabbing my putter with my right (dominant) hand, standing directly behind the ball, and hitting with the *back* of the blade. In other words, holding the putter normally and with only my right hand, then rotating my arm so my palm is facing my body, and moving the back of my hand toward my target. Anything illegal about this?

So long as your feet don't straddle the target line, nothing about what you have described is illegal.
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#25 nbg352

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Posted 28 December 2012 - 01:19 PM

View Postplus8, on 28 December 2012 - 05:32 AM, said:

This is interesting - may give it a try since I'm always looking to improve my (dubious) putting game.  So what about lie (shaft angle)? Do you need a straight up-and-down shaft for this?
No. the best lie angle is the one that allows for a comfortable grip, putter head level to the ground, while allowing the eyes to be behind the ball, along the target line. You may find that the lie of your current putter will work just fine

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#26 plus8

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Posted 28 December 2012 - 05:00 PM

View Postnbg352, on 28 December 2012 - 01:19 PM, said:

View Postplus8, on 28 December 2012 - 05:32 AM, said:

This is interesting - may give it a try since I'm always looking to improve my (dubious) putting game.  So what about lie (shaft angle)? Do you need a straight up-and-down shaft for this?
No. the best lie angle is the one that allows for a comfortable grip, putter head level to the ground, while allowing the eyes to be behind the ball, along the target line. You may find that the lie of your current putter will work just fine

Thanks!!  I'm gonna give it a shot!! (couldn't hurt my enviable 36+ putting game....).  I have about 6-7 putters, and I am sure one of 'em would love to be my next best friend!  

But wait - none of em are center-shafted.  does that make a difference?

#27 nbg352

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Posted 28 December 2012 - 05:22 PM

View Postplus8, on 28 December 2012 - 05:00 PM, said:

View Postnbg352, on 28 December 2012 - 01:19 PM, said:

View Postplus8, on 28 December 2012 - 05:32 AM, said:

This is interesting - may give it a try since I'm always looking to improve my (dubious) putting game.  So what about lie (shaft angle)? Do you need a straight up-and-down shaft for this?
No. the best lie angle is the one that allows for a comfortable grip, putter head level to the ground, while allowing the eyes to be behind the ball, along the target line. You may find that the lie of your current putter will work just fine

Thanks!!  I'm gonna give it a shot!! (couldn't hurt my enviable 36+ putting game....).  I have about 6-7 putters, and I am sure one of 'em would love to be my next best friend!  

But wait - none of em are center-shafted.  does that make a difference?
nope.
But as I mentioned, you might find it easier with a putter of the opposite side to which you are accustomed.

Edited by nbg352, 28 December 2012 - 05:25 PM.

R11S 8* square; Stock stiff
R7 3w stock stiff
RBZ 25* hb; RBZstage 2 19* hb
R7 Draw 5 - AW stock stiff graphite
GM Never Compromise GM2 putter
54*, 58* Callaway X series Jaws 4* flat

#28 masyankees

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Posted 29 December 2012 - 09:00 PM

Very interesting.

I'm gonna have to fool around with this just for fun, while secretly hoping to strike gold

#29 Kaysquare

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Posted 29 December 2012 - 09:08 PM

I have a friend who uses the sidesaddle method of putting & he's a fantastic putter, & single digit handicapper.  He uses an old putter and the face couldn't be more than about 2-1/2" wide.  When he makes contact with the ball it actually gets airborne at first & scares the devil out of everyone, but it almost always goes in the hole & gets more speed than you think it will. He also can read greens like nobody's business, but he tends to get into trouble because he has trouble keeping that putter to the side.  As the day goes on, he tends to let it get closer & closer to center, and if he's in a tournament he is watched very carefully.  I play in couples tournaments with him now & then and his putting is amazing to watch, but it worries me to death.

#30 bosoxfan

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Posted 01 January 2013 - 10:56 AM

So, besides the short KJ experiment, will some other long putter users on tour give it a serious look?  Will be interesting to see how they all react and if this catches on a bit.
KH


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