Straddling the Line of Putt

Can I stand directly behind the ball and putt it facing the hole croquet style?

The answer is “it depends.”

Remember Sam Snead? He was a prolific ball striker who won 82 PGA Tour events and seven majors yet suffered from the “yips” while putting. In the 1966 PGA Championship at Firestone, he double hit a two-foot putt and on the very next hole decided to change his putting stroke. He straddled the ball and began putting croquet style. He went on to finish sixth that week. The next year he won the PGA Seniors by nine strokes and finished 10th in the Masters using his newfound style.

The USGA and the R&A took notice and, effective January 1, 1968, introduced Rule 35-1L (now Rule16-1e) that stated “The player shall not make a stroke on the putting green from a stance astride, or with either foot touching, the line of the putt or an extension of that line behind the ball.”

That effectively altered Sam’s croquet style of putting. Adapting, Sam decided that he would putt side saddle; still facing the hole but not straddling an extension of the line of putt behind the ball.

Now, back to the original question.

First, if your ball is off the putting green, the answer is yes you may stand directly behind the ball with

 your feet straddling or standing on an extension of the line of putt behind the ball while making a stroke. No problem as this Rule only applies on the putting green.

Second, if your ball is on the putting green, you may not make a stroke at the ball with your feet astride or standing on the line of putt or an extension of the line of putt behind the ball (loss of hole in match play or two strokes in stroke play).

Finally, side saddle is OK anytime. But just to make it a little more difficult, the Rules require that the angle of the shaft of a putter must diverge at least 10 degrees from the vertical so that you effectively cannot use a croquet mallet. That makes it much more difficult.

Remember, use the index or the table of contents to find the correct Rule that applies to the situation and follow the Rules of Golf to help yourself to enjoy the game of golf.

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