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Why doesn't everyone putt sidesaddle ?


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My apologies if this sis the wrong place for this topic, but I felt I had to ask - why are there so few sidesaddle putters around ? ( I hasten to add I have zero commercial interest ).

 

Sidesaddle has 2 huge advantages over conventional in my view :

 

1. Even if you don't putt looking at the hole ( which I recommend ), by standing behind the putt sidesaddle and facing the hole you are still more conscious of the distance to the hole than the conventional " blind " putter, thus helping distance control

2. We see pros experimenting with more and more ridiculous looking grips to try and reduce rotation during the putting stroke - but with sidesaddle the putter head automatically stays square during the stroke and travels straight down the putting  line

 

I'm sure you're still highly sceptical, so let me quote from Dave Pelz's 300 page Putting BIble, page 40, describing sidesaddle  : " I can't remember the name of the man who figured this out, but I give him credit : he found something that really does work....This technique produced the consistently best putting I have ever seen, and it is legal. But I'm certain that if someone switches to this style and starts winning with it, the USGA will probably ban it. "

 

For those of you still doubting, let me ask this : I'm assuming most of the readers of this Forum are Americans, and many of you will no doubt have gone bowling at some time. How many of you turned sideways on to the lane and bowled your ball without looking at the pins ? Just asking...

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There is a long, long thread on the putter forum about side saddle putting; it might be the foremost discussion of the subject in the world.

 

I've been putting side saddle for 6 years.  When I started, I wondered why more people don't do it, but I've answered that question over the years.  Players, even really good ones, who try my putter have no idea what they are doing; no idea how to hold the putter, no idea of ball position, no kinesthetic sense of what they are doing.  They've seen me putting well, and think it's a magic trick, which it isn't, and they hit a couple of bad putts and decide it's not for them.  It takes some work early on to get the fundamentals, and that means one step back for two steps forward with no guarantee of success, and most good players just aren't going to do that.

 

The more interesting thing, at least to me, is the reaction of the chops when they see me putting; they just go nuts!  I've come to believe that it's threatening to them; they are terrible putters, and I'm not, and that might mean that what they are doing isn't the best way.  That is an uncomfortable place to be, so they focus on stuff like whether or not it's "legal", or that it looks weird, or whatever.

 

But I have ZERO doubt that it's a better way to putt; ZERO.  If you took two people who had never putted a golf ball and started one side saddle and one conventional, with everything else equal, the side saddle putter would become better quicker, and maybe a LOT better.  That said, I don't think you'll see many people putting this way anytime soon.

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5 hours ago, davidy1948 said:

My apologies if this sis the wrong place for this topic, but I felt I had to ask - why are there so few sidesaddle putters around ? ( I hasten to add I have zero commercial interest ).

 

Sidesaddle has 2 huge advantages over conventional in my view :

 

1. Even if you don't putt looking at the hole ( which I recommend ), by standing behind the putt sidesaddle and facing the hole you are still more conscious of the distance to the hole than the conventional " blind " putter, thus helping distance control

2. We see pros experimenting with more and more ridiculous looking grips to try and reduce rotation during the putting stroke - but with sidesaddle the putter head automatically stays square during the stroke and travels straight down the putting  line

 

I'm sure you're still highly sceptical, so let me quote from Dave Pelz's 300 page Putting BIble, page 40, describing sidesaddle  : " I can't remember the name of the man who figured this out, but I give him credit : he found something that really does work....This technique produced the consistently best putting I have ever seen, and it is legal. But I'm certain that if someone switches to this style and starts winning with it, the USGA will probably ban it. "

 

For those of you still doubting, let me ask this : I'm assuming most of the readers of this Forum are Americans, and many of you will no doubt have gone bowling at some time. How many of you turned sideways on to the lane and bowled your ball without looking at the pins ? Just asking...

Do you putt sidesaddle?  How long have you been doing it?

 

Putting has nothing to do with bowling.

 

If sidesaddle works for anyone they should do it - whatever works for you is pretty much the key!

Countdown to The Masters has begun!

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7 hours ago, davidy1948 said:

"....This technique produced the consistently best putting I have ever seen. "

 

 

I remember that from the Pelz book, and that is a pretty strong endorsement given all the research that Pelz has done on the short game and on putting in particular.

 

I experimented with it for a while and never got anywhere close to as good as I was with conventional mechanics, so I gave up on it.

 

So the answer to your question may be a combination of my experience and bluedot's experience, ie takes a lot of commitment and work to see results and most people aren't willing to do that based just on Pelz' endorsement.

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3 hours ago, Hawkeye77 said:

Do you putt sidesaddle?  How long have you been doing it?

 

Putting has nothing to do with bowling.

 

If sidesaddle works for anyone they should do it - whatever works for you is pretty much the key!

I have been putting sidesaddle for 2 years with good results thanks. In particular my distance control has improved dramatically and reduced my 3 putt level significantly.

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You lost me when you started knocking PGA tour players.  Even the worst putters on tour are way way way better putters than your average amateur.  I'm pretty sure they have a pretty good idea on what they are doing and why they do the things they do. 

 

Your taking personal results and trying to make it fit for all.  Glad it works for you, may work for some others.  But I've gotten better at golf trying to do what the best players in the world do.    

 

  

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9 hours ago, davidy1948 said:

 

Sidesaddle has 2 huge advantages over conventional in my view :

 

1. Even if you don't putt looking at the hole ( which I recommend ), by standing behind the putt sidesaddle and facing the hole you are still more conscious of the distance to the hole than the conventional " blind " putter, thus helping distance control

2. We see pros experimenting with more and more ridiculous looking grips to try and reduce rotation during the putting stroke - but with sidesaddle the putter head automatically stays square during the stroke and travels straight down the putting  line


1. There are a multitude of factors that contribute to the ability to judge distance and strike a golf ball the distance you intend. What you say seems logical but I know of no evidence of this. Or even how you’d measure it rigorously. 
 

2. There are also a multitude of reasons pros try different grips, not just to prevent rotation. And regardless of side saddle or what-have-you, if you are swinging any golf club in any fashion there is no “automatic” staying square. No such thing. 
 

Your oversimplified points stem from your improvement putting that way. Good for you. 
 

There is no universal law that more people would benefit from putting side saddle. 
 

I would not argue Dave Pelz’s knowledge of putting, but his statement in his book is uncharacteristically hyperbolic and without hard evidence. 

Edited by ctmason_98
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This might be the evidence that Pelz based his statement on:

 

https://golf.com/news/sidesaddle-putting-why-sam-sneads-method-might-be-the-post-anchoing-future-of-putting/

 

Scoring better on the standard golf school drills than anyone else ever measured sounds pretty impressive to me.

 

Years ago one of the golf mags had an article on the world putt putt champion.  His name was Buddy-something, and he used the side saddle technique.  I can't find it online but it was an interesting read.

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Problem with the bowling analogy is you typically don't throw the ball with your body facing the lane. Unless you're 5 with the bumper lanes. Closest analogy might be slo-pitch softball pitching.

 

 

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6 hours ago, garyt said:

Sounds egotistical

 

I'm sorry you hear it that way.  But I did putt conventionally for 50 years, and with some success, so I sort of know what I'm talking about when I make the comparison.  I don't see how guys that have never putted side saddle are able to do that.  Perhaps you do.

 

To be clear, in the 6 years I've been putting side saddle, I have NEVER recommended that anybody try it, and I'm doing that now.  For it to work, you have to put in some serious practice time at the outset, which most people just are NOT going to do, and you have to be willing to approach it with a "one step back for two steps forward" approach, which, again, most people are just not willing to do. 

 

But most importantly, you have to absolutely not give a damn what anybody thinks about what you are doing, which I don't.  That's because the chops just freak out when they see it!  Good players never do; they're really interested.  But the chops?  They just decompensate and never recover.

Edited by bluedot
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(1) The vast, vast, VAST majority of golfers (99.9%?) have no idea what side saddle putting is. Or have never seen it in action.

 

(2) Even if you are aware of what side saddle putting is, it requires specialized equipment that is not found in stores and is manufactured by virtually unknown companies. Even if I decided to try it out, I haven't the foggiest clue of what to buy, what specs, etc. 

 

(3) So if you get past those first two hurdles, you then have to commit to the technique and practice it.

 

I think that's sufficient explanation.

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6 minutes ago, MaineMariner said:

(1) The vast, vast, VAST majority of golfers (99.9%?) have no idea what side saddle putting is. Or have never seen it in action.

 

(2) Even if you are aware of what side saddle putting is, it requires specialized equipment that is not found in stores and is manufactured by virtually unknown companies. Even if I decided to try it out, I haven't the foggiest clue of what to buy, what specs, etc. 

 

(3) So if you get past those first two hurdles, you then have to commit to the technique and practice it.

 

I think that's sufficient explanation.

 

1. Absolutely correct.  Pelz has been talking about it for years, and Johnny Miller did, too, but you had to be reading a LOT of golf stuff to come across it.

 

2. Absolutely correct, with the very notable exception of Bobby Grace, who has made several putters specifically for side saddle.  But still, you aren't going to walk into Golf Galaxy and see side saddles to try out, even Bobby Grace.  For sure, it's a custom, niche market.

 

3. Absolutely correct, and a deal breaker for most people.

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On 5/1/2021 at 12:49 AM, davidy1948 said:

 

2. We see pros experimenting with more and more ridiculous looking grips to try and reduce rotation during the putting stroke - but with sidesaddle the putter head automatically stays square during the stroke and travels straight down the putting  line

 

 

This is simply not true. This would only be true if the lie angle was 90*, which isn't allowed under the rules of golf.

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On 5/2/2021 at 2:13 PM, bluedot said:

4. Before any of you tell me where I'm wrong, think about this for just a moment.  I putted conventionally for FIFTY YEARS, and putted will enough to win club championships.  I switched when I was 62 years old, and I was still a low single digit index without the yips.  I just wanted to see if I could make more putts and three putt less, and I do both of those; it took me a month (with a LOT of very intentional practice) to be as good as I had been conventionally, and in three months, I was a better putter than I had EVER been conventionally.  I know a LOT about putting conventionally, and unless you've putted a LOT side saddle, you don't have much to tell me about either method.  That's not meant to sound egotistical; it's just a fact.


Okay so that is your experience. But, you’re also making declarations about biomechanics and precision vs. power. You cite examples. That’s fine, but your statements can be argued, no?

 

is a javelin thrower’s motion or shotputter’s motion designed for power or precision?  The two are not mutually exclusive, add to that the problem of what those words even mean. 
 

At times during that motion their hands/hand and bodies are facing away from the line of play, and facing toward the line of play. 
 

A tennis player’s hands face toward the ball typically, but with both powerful snd less powerful strikes they may not. Their shoulders may or may not be are square to their target or line of play while striking the ball. 
 

if it seems to be nitpicking, you’re the one that brought up biomechanics. 
 

To your fourth point, you recount your experience. You putted well for a long time. Now putt well side saddle. 
 

How do you define making more putts? And how do you quantify your improved putting?

 

You gave side saddle very intentional practice when you started. Did you do the same just beforehand with conventional putting?

 

Could this not all be recency bias? 
 

For sake of argument let us say you are making more putts than you did before you started. Do you make more putts at 64 than you did at 61? 
 

What about your putting when you were 44? 24?
 

And no I haven’t putted side saddle. But I don’t think I need to in order to ask these questions? 
 

After all, I am not making declarative statements about the effectiveness of putting methods. You are. 

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I've been side saddle putting for 8 years.  

Would never go back to traditional putting.

But I was a pretty bad traditional putter (38+ putts a round avg) who missed a lot of very short makeable putts (4-6 ft range).

So I had nothing to lose in making the switch.

Unlike Blue Dots experience, I pretty much improved right away when I went to side saddle putting.

Especially my lag putting for some reason.

I'm not a great putter now (I avg about 32 putts a round) but am much improved from where I used to be.

And now and then I manage to have some incredibly good putting rounds (less than 30 putts) that I could NEVER manage before.

Having said all that.....beauty is in the eye of the beholder.....and people need to do what works for them.

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Well I'm very pleased to have stimulated such debate on this topic, much of it from people who are both smarter and better informed than I am !

 

As often happens when something radical is suggested, much of the response from traditionalists is rather defensive and aggressive at the same  - reminds me of the launch of S+T all those years ago ( not very well handled by the S+T people themselves of course ) - now much of their thinking has been incorporated, often without attribution, into mainstream teaching.

 

I think of sidesaddle at being the Fosbury Flop of putting - remember the ridicule that faced, how could you possibly jump over a bar by first turning your back on it ?

 

It's a little disappointing that the pros have given it much of a shot - I do remember a brief flirtation by KJ Choi, and I heard that Dechambeau had looked at it before going to his current style - now that really would have been something !

 

I remain convinced that sidesaddle facing the hole is the way forward, just based on basic commonsense if nothing else. After all, it's the golf shot requiring the most precision - an inch left or right and it doesn't go in - so why would you deliberately turn your head away from that tiny target and opt to put blind ?

 

Anyway my thanks to all who have contributed so far, I've already learnt a lot and maybe will learn more should there be future contributions.

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14 hours ago, Krt22 said:

This is simply not true. This would only be true if the lie angle was 90*, which isn't allowed under the rules of golf.

 

For clarification, it is NOT illegal to hold and use a putter, or any other club, perpendicular to the ground.  The rule is that the straight part of the shaft must be at a lie angle of no more than 80*, and there is a further qualification that if the head of the putter is made in such a way as to allow the putter to be held and used at more than that, the putter might be non-conforming.  I think standard putters are around 71* or so?

 

This was where Dechambeau ran into the Rules when he went back to side saddle a few years ago at the beginning of the PGA season; he was using a putter that allowed him to hold it dead vertical, and you couldn't see the heel of the putter off the ground.  I was pretty sure the putter was non-conforming the first day, and positive after I went to the practice green and tried his grip and stance.  It took another week or two, but the USGA did declare his putter to be non-conforming.  There's more to that story, but that's the gist of the rule.

 

When you hold a putter that has an 80* lie angle at 90*, there is a little bit of a trade-off because you lose a little bit of the sweet spot, and if you're not careful, you can aim the face marginally to the right.  But there is absolutely nothing in any of that against the Rules of Golf.

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13 hours ago, ctmason_98 said:


Okay so that is your experience. But, you’re also making declarations about biomechanics and precision vs. power. You cite examples. That’s fine, but your statements can be argued, no?

 

is a javelin thrower’s motion or shotputter’s motion designed for power or precision?  The two are not mutually exclusive, add to that the problem of what those words even mean. 
 

At times during that motion their hands/hand and bodies are facing away from the line of play, and facing toward the line of play. 
 

A tennis player’s hands face toward the ball typically, but with both powerful snd less powerful strikes they may not. Their shoulders may or may not be are square to their target or line of play while striking the ball. 
 

if it seems to be nitpicking, you’re the one that brought up biomechanics. 
 

To your fourth point, you recount your experience. You putted well for a long time. Now putt well side saddle. 
 

How do you define making more putts? And how do you quantify your improved putting?

 

You gave side saddle very intentional practice when you started. Did you do the same just beforehand with conventional putting?

 

Could this not all be recency bias? 
 

For sake of argument let us say you are making more putts than you did before you started. Do you make more putts at 64 than you did at 61? 
 

What about your putting when you were 44? 24?
 

And no I haven’t putted side saddle. But I don’t think I need to in order to ask these questions? 
 

After all, I am not making declarative statements about the effectiveness of putting methods. You are. 

I'm a stats freak; always have been, so I've got a mountain of data about my putting both ways.  You'll have to take my word for that, but I even make notations when I change putters so that I have some sensible basis of comparison.

 

And yes, I did work REALLY hard at conventional putting; putter fittings, lessons, books, and a TON of practice.  I think part of the reason that side saddle always made sense to me is because I was a HS basketball coach for 40 years, and side saddle is so much like shooting free throws, though on a different plane, that it just seemed too easy not to try.

 

The age thing is a factor, for sure.  I don't do anything on the golf course as well now as I did years ago, including putting.  My bigger issue is problems with my right eye that have really screwed up my depth perception and, in turn, my chipping.  Nothing to be done about it, and I'm learning to compensate as best I can.  But I can promise you that turning sideways and looking out of one eye before I try to swing both arms across my body WITHOUT MOVING is way worse than facing the hole, looking at it with both eyes, and swinging one arm back and forward.  You can disagree with that all you want, of course.

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I feel like the PGA pros are a good judgement of what techniques are more efficient, so while side straddle may help some its probably only going to help certain players. After all, putting is more than just hitting where you aim with the correct speed, it's judging the break and the speed, something that no putting stroke can help with.

 

As a generally poor putter I have come to adopt a very dominant right hand stroke to mimic as much as possible tossing the ball with my right hand, albeit from the side. This helps me putt where I aim and with the speed as well.

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15 hours ago, ctmason_98 said:


Okay so that is your experience. But, you’re also making declarations about biomechanics and precision vs. power. You cite examples. That’s fine, but your statements can be argued, no?

 

is a javelin thrower’s motion or shotputter’s motion designed for power or precision?  The two are not mutually exclusive, add to that the problem of what those words even mean. 
 

At times during that motion their hands/hand and bodies are facing away from the line of play, and facing toward the line of play. 
 

if it seems to be nitpicking, you’re the one that brought up biomechanics. 
 

To your fourth point, you recount your experience. You putted well for a long time. Now putt well side saddle. 
 

How do you define making more putts? And how do you quantify your improved putting?

 

You gave side saddle very intentional practice when you started. Did you do the same just beforehand with conventional putting?

 

Could this not all be recency bias? 
 

For sake of argument let us say you are making more putts than you did before you started. Do you make more putts at 64 than you did at 61? 
 

What about your putting when you were 44? 24?
 

And no I haven’t putted side saddle. But I don’t think I need to in order to ask these questions? 
 

After all, I am not making declarative statements about the effectiveness of putting methods. You are. 

 

Your examples of javelin throwers, the shot, and tennis players are really helpful; all of those are utilizing torque and rotation and weight shift to create speed; in that regard, they are a lot like the full swing in golf, but nothing at all like putting.

 

I'm pretty sure you are never going to putt side saddle, and that's 100% ok; as I said, I've NEVER been evangelical about this.  But maybe as a thought experiment, you could list what you think are the biomechanical advantages of conventional putting.  I think I've already listed what I believe are the advantages of side saddle; the use of binocular vision, swinging one are back and forward instead of two arms having to "coordinate" as they swing across the body, and I'll add to that that there are no issues in side saddle with moving as you swing because your weight is already on the front foot.

 

So what do you see as the advantages of the setup and swing in conventional putting?

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3 hours ago, davidy1948 said:

Well I'm very pleased to have stimulated such debate on this topic, much of it from people who are both smarter and better informed than I am !

 

As often happens when something radical is suggested, much of the response from traditionalists is rather defensive and aggressive at the same  - reminds me of the launch of S+T all those years ago ( not very well handled by the S+T people themselves of course ) - now much of their thinking has been incorporated, often without attribution, into mainstream teaching.

 

I think of sidesaddle at being the Fosbury Flop of putting - remember the ridicule that faced, how could you possibly jump over a bar by first turning your back on it ?

 

It's a little disappointing that the pros have given it much of a shot - I do remember a brief flirtation by KJ Choi, and I heard that Dechambeau had looked at it before going to his current style - now that really would have been something !

 

I remain convinced that sidesaddle facing the hole is the way forward, just based on basic commonsense if nothing else. After all, it's the golf shot requiring the most precision - an inch left or right and it doesn't go in - so why would you deliberately turn your head away from that tiny target and opt to put blind ?

 

Anyway my thanks to all who have contributed so far, I've already learnt a lot and maybe will learn more should there be future contributions.

 

The Fosbury analogy is a good one, and another is Pete Gogolak with soccer-style kicking in football.  That was equally different, and completely transformative to the way football is played.  High school kids now routinely kick 40 and 50 yard field goals, and the NFL has narrowed the goal posts, and now moved the extra point try back because the kickers have gotten to be so good. 

 

Dechambeau, btw, putted side saddle for quite a bit of his amateur career.  The big surprise to me, and probably all the side saddle guys that saw him go back to it briefly, what his grip; he had his right hand with the palm facing away from the hole, and his left hand was gripping his right forearm and the putter shaft the way Langer used to do with a conventional putter.  It was weird, and got rid of one of the big advantages of side saddle, which is the natural arm swing.  I'd guess that the majority of side saddle guys use a pencil grip with their bottom hand, with the rest using a palm-facing grip like you would use to roll a ball, but I've never seen anybody do what he was doing.  It did make the putter, which he had designed, absolutely vertical, and that was the problem that led to the putter being declared non-conforming.  Dechambeau went on a rant against the USGA when that happened, but I think most of us knew that ruling was inevitable.  What bothers me is that I suspect he knew he was violating and just hoped he would get away with it, but that's another argument that isn't really about putting.

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Face-on will be my next venture if the L.A.B. honeymoon ever ends.    I picked up a couple broomsticks on the cheap this spring with the intention of getting them bent upright and cut down so I can try broomstick as well as side saddle (kind of a 2 for 1 purchase). Golf is seasonal in the Midwest which allows for putter / putting changes over winter.  I’ve read much of the SS thread (it’s super long) but without even being able to try one makes it difficult to get into.

 

1) Lie angle - seems the consensus is 80* (or 79* to allow a margin of error if tested for tournament sake) based on current USGA rules but I’ve read mumblings of it being reduced to 76* in the near future.

 

2) Loft - seems you would need to reduce the loft of the putter because of the forward ball position UNLESS of course your top hand is further away from your torso.

 

3) Length - what’s the general rule to start, top forearm parallel to ground?
 

4) Stance - (assuming right handed) feet together, left foot forward  to avoid dorking the putter off your right foot or right foot forward to allow for a consistent ball position and guide for the stroke?
 

5) Ball position - off lead toe would seem like a reasonable starting point?
 

6) Arm positions - Top hand directly in front of sternum or extended out in front of sternum (to match the lie angle of the putter) or top hand more over the ball to achieve more of a pendulum stroke (causing the toe down, heel up scenario).

 

7) Head weight, grip, center shaft, underhand/pencil, etc

 

Of course, all these questions apply to conventional putters as well but I can walk into any box store and try a hundred different putters, readily get fitted, have adjustments made or schedule a lesson.  Conversely,  the side saddle rabbit hole presents itself as a solo mission with very few resources.  
 

With my season just getting started, new irons and wedges in the bag, an entire winter devoted to the L.A.B. putter, I’m invested in 2021 already

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7 hours ago, BigEx44 said:

 

Many side saddle putters hold their putter at 90* (toe down) in order to better execute a SBST motion.

 

4 hours ago, bluedot said:

 

For clarification, it is NOT illegal to hold and use a putter, or any other club, perpendicular to the ground.  The rule is that the straight part of the shaft must be at a lie angle of no more than 80*, and there is a further qualification that if the head of the putter is made in such a way as to allow the putter to be held and used at more than that, the putter might be non-conforming.  I think standard putters are around 71* or so?

 

This was where Dechambeau ran into the Rules when he went back to side saddle a few years ago at the beginning of the PGA season; he was using a putter that allowed him to hold it dead vertical, and you couldn't see the heel of the putter off the ground.  I was pretty sure the putter was non-conforming the first day, and positive after I went to the practice green and tried his grip and stance.  It took another week or two, but the USGA did declare his putter to be non-conforming.  There's more to that story, but that's the gist of the rule.

 

When you hold a putter that has an 80* lie angle at 90*, there is a little bit of a trade-off because you lose a little bit of the sweet spot, and if you're not careful, you can aim the face marginally to the right.  But there is absolutely nothing in any of that against the Rules of Golf.

Even if it's being stroked at a perfect 90* angle, that statement I put in bold is not true due to the geometry of a conforming club.  Reducing face rotation and "automatically squaring" are two different things

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