Donald C. Evans
Croquet Style Stymie Putter
In match play prior to 1952, a "stymie" occurred whenever player A's ball was directly in the path between player B's ball and the hole. Player B, the furthest from the hole, had to negotiate player A's ball and could not ask player A to remove his ball unless it was within six inches of player B's ball. Stymies usually occurred on the putting-green. Players negotiating a stymie could try to go around or over their opponent's ball. If the player tried to go over the ball, he or she usually used a lofted iron to do so. But in the continuing effort to answer the golfer's every dilemma, a few clubs were designed specifically to handle the stymie.
Ronald Calcott Evans received a British patent (No. 22, 400) dated Oct. 22, 1908, that covered the center-shafted stymie putter pictured. According to his patent, his golf club was: Designed with a view of combining the advantages and uses of a "putter" on the one part, and a "stymie" or lifting club on the other. Therefore, this club head has two striking faces-a straight face for putting and a very lofted face for playing stymie shots. The stymie face was to provide a "very acute angle to the horizontal, preferably 35°."
This particular club was made by the British Golf Company and is marked "British Golf Co. Ltd. \ Makers \ London" in a small oval on the sole.
Formed in 1904, the British Golf Company was a "wholesale and export only" firm that supplied golf requisites including their own machine-made clubs (Golfing, 16, June 1904: 42 and Golf Illustrated, 15 Dec. 1905: 248).
Another putter designed to handle the occasional stymie is mentioned in the July 9, 1897 issue of Golf: Another putter seems more ingenious than necessary. This wooden one, in which the removal of a part of the face (made loose for that purpose) leaves a gap, sloping gently from back to front, which may be utilised for lofting obstinate stymies, should the owner's bag contain neither a mashie nor lofting iron (351).
The stymie was completely eliminated from the game by 1952: In one form or another this rule remained until in 1952, after much argument extending over many years, it vanished from the game (Cousins 1959, 163). [The USGA abolished the stymie in 1950, the R&A did so two years later.]
JOHN K. GARNER
Triple Face, Billiard Style
The "Garner" putter, whatever its other special features may be, certainly possesses an appearance unique in the evolution of that particular variety of club which is used exclusively for holing out purposes. . . . The "Garner" putter has yet to be proven. The designer makes certain claims for it, after watching carefully various players use it, and its effect upon their play combined with his own conviction as to its efficiency. He says: "The following are what I consider the chief merits of the club:
(1) A most perfectly balanced club
(2) The hitting direction of the club is easily seen
(3) The club is easily placed in its striking position
(4) The weight is equally divided, as the shaft enters the centre of the head
(Golfing, 2 Feb. 1905: 22).
The Garner putter was designed not only for both left- and right-handed use as pictured, it was also designed to function like a billiard cue!
The brass Garner putter is resting on the sides of its disc shaped faces. This allows the sole, which is perfectly flat, to become the active striking face. With the club in this position, the golfer could strike the ball in billiard cue fashion. Using either one or two hands when crouching or kneeling, the golfer simply drew the club head back and then pushed it forward into the ball, the circular disc faces acting as runners, never losing contact with the ground. Although John Garner invented this clever putter, he is not responsible for the idea of striking a golf ball "billiard style."
In 1899 a letter from Ashley MacMahon to the editor of Golf Illustrated questioned the validity of using a billiard cue when golfing. It reads:
Sir,-Whilst playing a match with a friend last Saturday I was much struck by seeing a billiard cue in his bag, and was more surprised on seeing him make use of it on the putting-green, where he consistently "holed-out" putts of three and four yards; indeed, he eventually won the match by five and a-half putt. I naturally disputed his right to use this object, upon which it was decided that we should refer to your valuable weekly paper for information. I shall be much obliged if you could settle this matter for us. I eventually tried the cue myself, and I must say I could hardly miss the hole (1 Sep.: 345).
The editor responded to MacMahon's letter as follows:
There is no rule of Golf which expressly forbids the use of a billiard cue or any other implement. It may be argued, however, that a billiard cue is not a club, which is a weapon with the weight at its striking end, and there is also the difficulty that it might be hard to say when a ball was pushed and not struck by the cue. Custom, at any rate, which is a very useful thing to go by in the absence of rule, is against the use of anything but a club . . . and custom further demands that the ball shall be struck with the head of the club and not otherwise.
Although no one has been bold enough to test the matter, it is extremely probable that the use of a billiard cue would not be permitted in either of the Championships. On the whole, therefore, golfers had better stick to implements in the semblance of clubs.
MacMahon's letter and the editor's response were not the first printed mention of the possible conflict between billiard cues and golf clubs. In the 1895 U.S. Amateur held at Newport, Rhode Island, Richard Peters attempted to use a billiard cue instead of a putter:
Talking on this subject, Mr. N.O. Tallmadge says, according to the Sun, New York: "The officials in charge of the Newport tournament did not make a ruling in the match between Mr. Peters and the Rev. Dr. Rainsford regarding the use of the cue; for, after using it once, Peters, at the request of his opponent, did not use it again"
(The Golfer, 23 June 1897: 487).
Less than a year after the 1895 U.S. Amateur, a letter to the editor of Golf requested a response as to the merits and legality of using a billiard cue when putting. Without referring to an official rule or ruling, the editor's one line reply was, "It is a foul stroke to use the club in this way" (6 March 1896: 529).
In 1904 a letter to the editor of Golf Illustrated presented a new twist on an old problem. This time, putting with a billiard cue was not in question, but putting with the end of the shaft in billiard cue fashion was! The letter, from a golfer identified as "Digitalis," and the editor's response read as follows:
Q.-The following point has arisen here in connection with a competition medal round, in which the best score returned was made by a player using a novel method of putting of questionable legality, upon which we should be glad to have your opinion. This competitor's method on the green was to use the upper end of the shaft of his putter to strike the ball with, grasping the head of the club in the right hand and using it like a billiard cue, the left hand making "a rest" as in the latter game, the player crouching down on the ground the while. The ball was not pushed but fairly struck in a similar way to a free shot on the billiard table. Does this, in your opinion, constitute an illegal shot and consequent disqualification? If so under what rule?
P. S.-Since writing I learnt that the player makes the "rest" with the left hand by placing it on the left boot instead of on the ground. It has been argued that in the latter case he breaks Rule 11 by "bending" the grass near the ball with the left hand in addressing the ball, the rule only allowing this to be done with the club and the two feet. Do you consider this a material point, or would you make no distinction in allowing or disqualifying both methods?
A.-There is nothing in the rules which expressly forbids this method of putting, nor have we ever observed that it conferred any advantage. At the same time it can hardly be considered a legitimate stroke since in golf the ball is struck with the head of the club and not with the shaft, and it might be possible to convict the player under Rules 6 match play and 14 stroke play for not striking fairly at the balls, "striking fairly" being held to mean, inter alia, with the head of the club. In this case he would suffer a penalty of two strokes for each offense. We do not consider that the stroke is made any more legitimate if the player rests his hand on his boot instead of on the ground. So far as we are aware the Rules Committee [of the R&A] have given no decision on the point.
(30 Sep. 1904: 10)
A decision from the R&A Rules Committee was not long in coming:
Recent Decisions by the Rules of Golf Committee. . . .
Using Club Like A Billiard Cue.
The competitor who returned the best score in a medal round adopted an unusual method of putting. The competitor knelt down and used the handle end of the club shaft to strike the ball in the same manner that a billiard ball is struck with a cue. Is this legal?
Answer.-This method of putting is absolutely illegal (Golf Illustrated, 21 Oct. 1904: 64).
The rare Garner billiard-style putter pictured on this page is marked "Patent" on one side of the hosel and "20038" on the other. "G. MacIntosh" is stamped on the shaft. On September 17, 1904, John Kenneth Garner of Manchester, England, applied for a British patent (No. 20,038) to cover this club. In designing his putter, Garner was trying to capture the best of both worlds-a traditional golf club that could also function like a billiard cue. However, when the R&A Rules Committee outlawed using a golf club "in the same manner as a billiard ball is struck with a cue" one month after Garner applied for his patent, the marketing future for his putter disappeared. This left Garner little incentive to complete his patent application, which he therefore abandoned.
The "Nicola" is a rare putter remotely similar to Garner's. Patented by William Nicol, a joiner from Glasgow, Scotland, this club was covered under a British patent (No. 13,307) dated June 13, 1904.
The Nicola has an unusual look. Instead of using discs, this club has a roughly rectangular head shape. (The patent refers to the faces as "rhomboid" in shape.) The club head, produced in both aluminum and brass models, provides for a putter on one end and a lofted, heavily scored chipper on the other. It was used primarily right-handed, left-handed, or croquet style, though it could be used billiard style despite not having a flat sole.
EARLY CROQUET STYLE PUTTER
This popular putter from the early 2O's was used between the legs as evidenced by the 9O% shaft.
Seems a little awkward to use with the "heel" shafting though.