It was a scorcher, and after a quick round in the slightly cool of the morning I wandered into the grill for an early lunch. I figured I was safe from the Sand Crab before noon, but I heard his unmistakable muttering emanating from the couch as I sat down with my ham and cheese. I prayed that he was concentrating too much on the view out the window to have noticed me.
I knew I was nailed when he peered over the back of the sofa at me. “You see that fool out there?” he asked. I followed his point out the window to the putting green, where a lone golfer was baking in the sun. “He’s using one of those cheater sticks, and he’s standing wrong, too.”
The object of Sand Crab’s wrath stood facing the hole as he tentatively swung his long putter. It looked like he was trying to get the feel of putting a new way, looking at the hole rather than the ball and swinging the club beside him rather than in front. However, after a few practice swings his putts went in or burned the edges.
“So?” I asked, chewing the last of my sandwich. “It looks strange, but it seems to work for him. Maybe he read the book.”
“What book? How To Look Like A Dork Without Even Trying? Croquet Made Simple? Those belly putters and sweepers are bad enough, but that’s just too much. Ought to be illegal, if you ask me. All of it.”
“What’s wrong with it, Crabman? The object is to hit the ball into the hole with the club, isn’t it? So what if the club’s long or you stand facing the hole?”
“It’s not golf, that’s what.”
I walked over and stood behind the couch as we both watched the guy on the green putt.
“The sweeper probably saved Langer’s career, you know. And Adam Scott’s using it pretty well. Remember Sam Snead putting side-saddle with that regular putter a long time ago? You’d make it all illegal?”
“It’s not right, that’s all. This game has a lot of tradition, you need to honor it. And those long putters don’t.”
“Featheries were tradition before gutta percha balls came along, Crabman. And then rubber core balls came along. A lot of people said the same things back then. Should we all be playing with feather-stuffed balls? Maybe gutta percha?”
“That guy out there has a feather-stuffed head, that’s what he has.” We both stared silently out at the green as the player put his putter back in his bag and headed for the first tee. The Sand Crab grinned as he looked up from the couch. “They did make it illegal for Snead, you know.”
“They just said you couldn’t stand astride the line like croquet, Crabman. They didn’t say you couldn’t swing facing the target.”
He grunted in reply. “And what book? You didn’t answer my question.”
“Golf’s Sacred Journey. The one they made into the Seven Days in Utopia movie. It’s got a lot about face-on putting in it.”
“Still looks dorky to me.”
I looked down at Sand Crab. He was wearing madras shorts, pink socks, and sandals. The hat sitting beside him had a fishing lure on the bill and ‘bite me’ written on the front. “You ought to wear plus fours, Crabpot. Uphold the tradition for us.”
“That’s different. What you wear doesn’t make the game easier.”
“You figure that long putter and standing facing the hole makes it easier, and that’s cheating?”
“You’re catching on, boy.”
“I don’t see you hitting a persimmon driver, Crabs. And you use a sand wedge for those bunker shots you’re so famous for, don’t you?”
“My favorite club, baby. Slides through that sand like a dream.”
“That club was made like that to make the game easier, wasn’t it? I seem to recall it didn’t exist until Sarazen developed it. Should it have been outlawed?”
The Sand Crab reached over for his hat. “Ancient history, kid. Don’t try to change the subject. You aren’t thinking about putting like that are you?”
“I don’t have a putter like that, Crabman. I tried another guy’s for a few minutes, but probably didn’t give it enough time to see how it really worked for me. I played with a sweeper for a while, but I didn’t putt any better than I usually do. So I’m sticking with my old style for now. But I’d change if I thought something else would do better.”
He laughed as he stood to leave. “Anything would work better for you. You should be out there practicing instead of stuffing your face in here.” He started to leave, but stopped and looked back. “Still working on that short game, are you?” I nodded. “Your handicap still going down?” I nodded again.
He grinned as he settled his cap on his head. “You don’t need no long putter. You just need me to set you straight.” He shot me with his index finger as he turned toward the door.