My Five: Most Controversial Innovations

March 17, 2011
Golf Digest's recent administration of the W I D E Open, in which a hole 15 inches in diameter was substituted for the regulation 4-1/4 inch hole at the Pine Needles GC in Southern Pines, N.C., has drawn a lot of attention and comment. The idea of a experimenting with a larger hole isn't a new one. Gene Sarazen proposed trying an 8-inch diameter hole back in the early 1930s. Almost every alteration or innovation -- proposed or adopted -- to the parameters of the game causes some controversy. These five have been the most polarizing.
Bob Duden

1. Croquet-style putting

Oregon pro Bob Duden introduced the style -- in which the player stands astride the line of the putt -- in the early 1960s, using a specifically designed putter. Sam Snead began standing astride, but with a conventional putter that required that he squat to guide the stroke with his right hand. Snead, who had long fought the yips, had some notable success, but controversy ensued when he used the style at the Masters, where Bobby Jones made his disapproval known. In a first-ever prohibition of a specific ball-striking technique, the USGA banned the style in 1967. "We felt it was the only way to eliminate the unconventional styles that have developed in putting," said executive director Joe Dey. "The game of golf was becoming bizarre. It was some other game, part croquet, part shuffleboard and part the posture of Mohammedan prayer." Snead adapted by moving to the side of the ball, keeping the same squat and low right hand, which he called "sidesaddle."
Stephen Szurlej
Subscribe to Golf Digest
Subscribe to Golf Digest
Subscribe today