Conforming To USGA Equipment Rules Makes Golf Less Fun

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Conforming To USGA Equipment Rules Makes Golf Less Fun

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DeChambeau Can Use His Sidesaddle Stroke, But Not His Putter

Bryson DeChambeau, who won the U.S. Amateur and the NCAA Championship in 2015 and turned pro after finishing 21st in last year’s Masters, has always had an unorthodox approach to golf. He plays with a custom-built set or irons that all have the same length. This year, DeChambeau unveiled a side-saddle putting stroke which, while unorthodox, is legal since he does not straddle the line of putt during his stroke. 

A problem emerged when DeChambeau was not happy with any of the conventional putters he tried to adapt to the side-saddle stroke, and manufactured one of his own.  The putter is center-shafted; rather than attaching to the rear of the clubhead, the shaft attaches to the center of the clubhead.  This creates a steeper shaft angle.

The USGA notified DeChambeau in early January that it was studying the putter, and on January 25 ruled that it does not conform to its rules. However, pursuant to a confidentiality agreement in place with equipment manufacturers, the USGA declined to comment on what characteristic rendered the putter non-conforming.  Some analysts speculated that the angle of the shaft was the problem.  Appendix II of the Rules of Golf states that, unlike other clubs, it is permissible for a putter shaft to be fixed at any point on the clubhead.

USGA

Bryson DeChambeau Using Sidestraddle Putting [Photo by: PGA.com]

“I was very disappointed with the way they handled it,” said DeChambeau, noting that his stroke itself is within the rules.  “Anything that helps lower scores and makes golf more fun and grows the game, that’s what I’m all about.”  

So it seems that the USGA campaign against unconventional putting continues. First the anchoring rule, now the ruling on DeChambeau. What next?

A Non-Conforming Ball Will Keep Your Drives in the Fairway, But Don’t Tell the USGA

In 1981, a little-known company named Polara Golf introduced a golf ball with a unique dimple pattern that virtually assured that any shot would go straight, no matter the stroke.  The dimple pattern through the middle section is shallower, while the outer dimples are deeper. When lined up using the arrow on the ball, slices and hooks are claimed to be reduced up to 75%.

USGA

Polara Golf Balls

Too good to be true?  The USGA investigated the ball when it was introduced and ruled it to be non-conforming, although Polara claims the USGA added a new rule to cover the ball.  The company also claims that the USGA paid it to pull the ball from the market for a few decades in the face of an antitrust lawsuit.   

But the Polara ball has been back on the market for a number of years, although it is still deemed non-conforming by the USGA. One review found the ball “absolutely amazing” in keeping any type of shot in play. Once the ball is in play the golfer faces a decision: reposition the ball so that the arrow faces the target, ensuring that it goes straight, or playing the ball as it lies, in which case it acts like a normal ball.

Should a recreational golfer feel any qualms about using the Polara ball?  The company claims that the balls are banned from tournament play, but are “perfectly legal” for recreational play. Well, not really.  The non-conforming equipment rules are part of the rules of golf. But if you view mulligans, gimmies, improving your lie, and ignoring the stroke-and-distance rule when your ball is lost or out of bounds as “legal,” then perhaps you could play the Polara ball without remorse.  It certainly might improve your day on the links. Just don’t let your opponent see it.

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