Over the past year and a half, belly putters have taken the PGA Tour and the golf retail market by storm. But if Tiger Woods has his way, belly putters will disappear even faster than they arrived on the mainstream golf circuit.
In his strongest words yet on the subject, Woods this week said he favors an “across the board” ban on belly putters, and he called for a “global rules change.”
Some will call it a sudden case of sour grapes, as young guns (such as Keegan Bradley and Webb Simpson) and old-timers (ie: Ernie Els) have won major tournaments with belly putters while Woods still struggles to regain his major edge. But the truth is that Tiger Woods has always felt this way about belly putters, and he has some notable company in Tom Watson, Arnold Palmer and others in being against the belly putter.
So what happens if the belly is banned? Well, for one thing, a lot of putter companies will be bummed, because belly putters have been an economic shot in the arm for them. But now, via the Wall Street Journal, comes word of an alternative “secret weapon” on the green: sidesaddle putting, whereby the golfer makes the stroke while facing the hole.
Of course, sidesaddle putting isn’t new (Sam Snead even tried it, pictured here), but it seems to be gaining momentum, thanks in part to the growing legend of Randy Haag. As the Journal reports, “Last weekend Haag, 53, won the club championship at the Olympic Club here for a record eighth time—all putting sidesaddle. That’s no mean feat, since Olympic, which hosted last summer’s U.S. Open, is thought to have as many low- and plus-handicap members as any club in the country…Haag was also low amateur at two of the last three British Senior Opens and is a six-time Northern California Player of the Year.”
In the article, leading putting guru Dave Pelz also has high praise for sidesaddle putting, saying that the most accurate student he ever measured used the sidesaddle method.
Here’s why the sidesaddle putting method might be poised for a surge in popularity. First, the stigma about alternative putting methods has been largely erased by the success of belly putters and long putters. There was a time when it would have been embarrassing to stalk the greens at Augusta National with a broomstick, but that time has passed.
Also, if a ban on belly putters comes to pass, then golfers may rush to find the next alternative to traditional putting. And because sidesaddle putting doesn’t require the golfer to anchor the shaft to the body, it won’t be subject to the ban.