Sensing that rising public revulsion could lead the United States Golf Association and the Royal and Ancient Golf Club of St. Andrews to ban belly putting as weird, ugly and disgusting to watch, researchers are studying alternatives that match long putters' stabilizing effects and the minimizing of twitches and yips, but which in no way rely on the direct involvement of the human body, its limbs or extremities. An inside progress report:
If They Ban The Long Putter, Then What?
The ingenious Piggyback requires that a willing helper crouch under a five-foot Fiberglas plank lying level across his back while the player readying to make his putt lies prone atop it, his head and arms dangling three feet above the green as he lines up his putt from above. It's "Steady Freddie!" as the human platform holds his stance, rigid and statue-like, for the several minutes the serious player needs to rehearse and ready his putt: pendulum-like, with none of that jazz about balance or stance or foot placement. "For God's sake, man, hurry!" might join "Never up, never in!" as a putting-green staple.
Twice the size and weight of an industrial-size electric hair dryer but five times more powerful, the Blo-Puttr 5000 (patent pending) consists of a chest-mounted control unit feeding a flexible air hose. The operator/putter simply dials in the distance to the cup in feet and points it at the hole; the hose's airflow instantly generates a monsoon-like gale behind the ball for 30-foot and longer putts, for example, or the merest breeze for a six-inch putt, or the appropriate blast at any level between. A shaky grip, a hiccup or a sudden nervous twitch will be neutralized by the hose's smooth flow of air, helping the ball beeline toward and into the cup.
C.A.P. (CRUSTACEAN-AIDED PUTTING)
Atrained live lobster with a ball clenched in its pincer, harnessed to a pair of electrical cables held at the "business end" by the player about to putt: That's the dazzling scientific secret of C.A.P.! Lab tests have proved lobsters to be smarter than most humans think--and plenty smart enough to sink that tricky putt without relying on the notoriously untrustworthy putter or its even more notoriously untrustworthy wielder. Coaxed left and right as needed by mild electric jolts through the cables while lumbering toward the hole, the lobster sooner or later--who's' hurrying? This is golf!--reaches the cup and drops in the ball. And a lobster dinner for the winner!
Tough guys with a grim desire to improve will brave the pain of being squeezed from both sides in the relentless grip of the Clamp-O-Matic, in effect a giant, inverted vise. It's based on sound scientific principles: The squeezing all but paralyzes every muscle in the body, shutting down all twitchy funny business as the "vise-ee" is frozen into the putting posture. One latent flaw has surfaced in early field tests: A fellow player must spin the vise's tightening lever--tempting super-competitive or grudge-bearing types to tighten it a mite beyond the average golfer's pain threshold. A vise-ee-activated escape switch is being developed, or should be.