New Grooves Are Coming!
Unless you've been living in a cave these past couple of years, you realize that the USGA has implemented a change in the Rules of Golf which define the geometry of grooves on all clubs of 25* loft or more - essentially all your middle and short irons, and wedges. The focus of the media has been on wedges, but all sets of irons will have to be altered to comply to the new rule as well.

We've been testing various groove configurations to try to find the design that will mitigate the loss of spin the most. Before I get into that, however, let me share with you a clarification of the Rule, because almost all of what I have read is technically inaccurate or downright wrong!
1. Square, box or "U" grooves are not being outlawed. The new rule does not change the allowed shaping of grooves except for one detail, which is very important. All affected clubs introduced after January 1, 2010, will have to feature grooves that have at least a 0.010" radius imparted to the edge of the grooves. That means those nice sharp edges we’ve all been milling will no longer be allowed. And wedges built to this new rule will not spin the ball as much. Pretty straightforward stuff.

2. This rule probably will never affect you. The Rule will be put into effect beginning 1/1/2010 only on the major professional tours and the three major USGA Championships – The U.S. Open, U.S. Senior Open and U.S. Women's Open. Unless you are teeing it up in one of those, you are good to go. The USGA will enforce the rule for all its other championships in 2014. It is anticipated that in that interim period, other high-level competitive organizations will adopt the rule as well – NCAA, mini-tours, etc. The Rule expressly states that it is recommended that the Rule only be enforced for “competitions involving expert players" until at least 2024. So, don’t look for this rule to be enforced at your Member-Guest or any other local level tournament for 15 years . . . at least!

3. Technology will eventually win. When you take something away, other technology replaces it. If these new grooves really do result in a significant loss of spin, don't you think the ball companies will find a way to win? Remember the old Tour Edition ball that cost Greg Norman at least two majors because you couldn't keep it on a green? Watch the ball progress the next few years - they have an almost unlimited palette of materials technology to explore. And from our early testing at least, we’ve found some ways to build wedges to conform to the new rules that are pretty darn close to the amazing spin EIDOLON has become known for (among other things).
So, we’ve been exploring and testing our wedges with various new groove configurations and have found something that really seems to work very well. The testing is still in early stages and we have a lot of subjective and objective research still ahead, but we'll be ready. Here's what our testing of various groove geometries has shown us thus far:
1. From the fairway, it almost doesn’t matter. If you are facing a shot with a clean fairway lie, your ability to spin the ball is much more determined by your swing path and quality of impact than it is by the grooves themselves. I wrote a series earlier this year about that. We’ve found very little difference between current and new groove performance on full wedge shots all the way down to those of only 10-15 yards when the lie is fairway clean. With players of all skill levels, we found shots with the new grooves only showed 10-20% more roll-out on short wedge shots, and that’s on greens that are very firm and fast. On more "typical" greens, the difference should be even less.

2. Fliers will make a return. I wrote about this a few weeks back. With irons and wedges built with the new grooves, we will see a return of the "flier". For those of you who missed, that, a "flier" occurs when light to medium rough allows grass to get in between the face and ball, dramatically reducing spin and creating a knuckle-ball, with hotter flight and minimal stopping power. But for those of us over 40, all you do is take one less club and fire away, allowing for more roll. It's really kind of fun, actually.

3. Your scores probably won't change. It's not like this is going to destroy your iron game or anything like that. After a very short adjustment time, you'll pick up your short game skills right where they were. And for most recreational golfers, that's not as good as they should be. Spend a few hours a month chipping and pitching around the practice green and you will drop shots.

4. Spin as a competitive advantage is neutralized. With this new Rule in place, after next year, I believe the ability to deliver spin will be a non-issue for choosing one wedge or iron over another. Other companies have devised cute names for their grooves, but that doesn't affect performance. We all build them as close to the USGA rule as we can, and we'll continue to do so.
Selfishly, I'm totally OK with that. While EIDOLON wedges have earned a fabulous reputation for spin, we have so much more to offer you than that. Our patented V-SOLE is a significant improvement over the 40-year-old sole designs that are very specialized for certain lies. If you've played them, you know that this sole never met a lie it doesn't like.

And we are the only wedge company to offer premium shafts, in steel and graphite, and a range of flexes ... all at no extra charge. And we are the only wedge company to offer you custom alterations to length, lie angle, grip size and even tweaking the loft ... all at no extra charge. That's why we are also the only wedge company to back up our wedges with a simple Satisfaction Guarantee – If you try one and don't like, send it back and I'll buy you any other make and model you think you'd like better!

Thanks for keeping those questions coming, guys. I'll be answering another on Tuesday and naming another winner of a FREE EIDOLON V-SOLE wedge. Have a great weekend.
The Wedge Guy is sponsored by SCOR Golf, where Terry Koehler is President/CEO. He encourages you to submit your questions or topics to be considered for his columns on Tuesdays and Fridays. Each submission automatically enters you to win a SCOR4161 wedge to be given away monthly. Click the button below to submit your question or topic today.


[ comments ]
Kickntrue says:
Terry- Another great article! I think you've shed some good light on the situation. I do have one disagreement- and that is #2 at the top- that this will not affect us amateurs. I think it will because of one other stipulation by the USGA that you've failed to mention. Equipment companies are REQUIRED to sell only clubs with the new grooves after 2010. So, unless we stockpile in the next year for the next 15 years, we'll be affected simply by buying equipment.
11/6/09
 
mjaber says:
I would like to know why the USGA is able to restrict what equipment companies sell within the US. Why does the USGA care what equipment I'm using during my annual 4th of July round with my friends?
11/6/09
 
Josh says:
Can they? It's a free market, I don't think they can actually restrict what any company sells.... What they CAN do is say that after 2010 they will only give USGA certification (or whatever they call it) to clubs with the new groove..

You can already buy clubs that aren't compliant with USGA rules today, and use them all you want as long as it's not a tournament or something that requires USGA compliant clubs.

Am I right here Andrew?
11/6/09
 
Kickntrue says:
@josh- i'm not sure of the answer on that. Terry aka Wedge Guy would probably know the answer to that better than me. It does seem weird that they can do this- but that's my understanding of the what's going on per my conversation with a couple people at Nike this week. It was new to me.
11/6/09
 
mjaber says:
I've seen "non-conforming" clubs on Ebay and the like, but never in the local golf shop. With the exception of "Spin Doctor" wedges, I've never seen anything non-conforming at any national golf/sporting goods store or an online retailer.

In a semi-related matter, the USGA is trying to prevent Taylormade from selling the "old" groove plates for their new XFT wedges.
11/6/09
 
dave1269 says:
The new groove rule was adopted by both the USGA and the R&A. Tours running outside the US, and all equipment manufacturers, must comply. This is not just a USGA issue.
11/6/09
 
mmontisano says:
@Josh and Kickntrue:
yes. you can use them all you like with out consequence, at least until 2024. after that, you need conforming clubs in order for your scores to go toward your official USGA handicap.

if you don't have or don't want an official USGA handicap, then keep on going with those non-conforming clubs, if you haven't bought a new set by then anyway.
11/6/09
 
Kickntrue says:
@hackman- I understand that. My issue is with the fact that nobody will be ALLOWED TO SELL THEM after 2010. So even though the rule doesn't change until 2024- you won't be able to buy any new equipment with the old (STILL LEGAL) grooves.
11/6/09
 
mmontisano says:
correct. if you can still find them or have a stockpile in your garage.

personally, i don't think the groove change will make that much of a difference for anyone that's over scratch. here's a cool little video that shows you how much roll out you'll get from the new grooves compared to the old ones:

www.youtube.com/watch?v=9QI7Gx2YWbQ
11/6/09
 
Kickntrue says:
@hackman- great video. i may give that its own post.
11/6/09
 
ayparekh says:
yup. great video....looks like i will be avoiding the rough next year!!!!
11/6/09
 
Swingem says:
I'm under the impression that the rule applies only to the sharpness of the edge of the "grooves" as we know them. What about manipulation of the rest of the clubface, i.e. Titleist Vokey spin milling , or the lazer grooves on the new Cleveland wedges?
11/6/09
 
zandercutt says:
spin only really matters if you cant keep it in the fairway. i know people who play pro v1's and wouldnt know the difference if i gave them a range ball. the point is, its all in peoples heads. the amount of spin will change for someone like tiger...sure...but for 10 12 and up handicaps, it will not be that noticeable
11/7/09
 
onedollarwed says:
Most of the groove discussion is probably awash, though fascinating in its own right. The top guy are the top guys. Perhaps golf commentators will fill boring air time with discussion about which pro is affected the most. You can see the graphics now: "Up&down conversion rate before and after rule change - which pro most affected." Little chart of up/down rank change by week.
This is part of several bigger discussions:
1. The technology innovations vs. USGA regulations.
2. How our equipment effect how/why we play the game.
3. The difference between the Pros and the Joes.
We've talked about these topics many times, and I can't get enough.
11/8/09
 
onedollarwed says:
In baseball there haven't been many rule changes since the DH and "lowered mounds." I suppose golf hasn't seen many rule changes to the game since the outing the stymie and the introduction of OB. When did lateral hazard rules start?
But like in baseball, when stadiums, balls, bats, and people all got "juiced," the game became almost unrecognizable. Imagine titanium bats in the majors, with parks swelling to 500 ft. fences? could've happened!
International rugby started allowing "lifting" on lineouts, kicking tees, creeping scrum halfs, no more yanking down mauls, kicking for touch to keep possesion on penalties, etc. (all of this since the 1980's) Soccer now forbids slide tackles from the rear, formerly a staple of the sport.
11/8/09
 
onedollarwed says:
Rugby's changes have really improved the game for viewers and players alike. It's not really safer, but the strategies are better. (For a little history, Teddy Roosevelt changed rugby's rules drastically, essentially creating American football, adopted in the Eastern US long before the west coast). Soccer's rules have helped the flow of the game, and the big leagues are still trying to reduce injuries to star players. Both of these sports now take more input from line judges - a great improvement!
I'm not so saavy on golf history, so I'll need some help, but golf also saw incredible changes in "stadiums," equipment, and its players' bodies, right? But what were the critical junctures in the adoption of technologies, regulations? I think baseball couldn't have weathered using non-wood bats, though maple is pretty easy. Could/ should golf have stuck with wood? It's not easy to define what a club is.
11/8/09
 
onedollarwed says:
Irons were already metal, and what is a hybid? a "wood" or and iron? So what are the critical differences, you can't regulate all fitness/nutrition enhancements.
1. Immacualte courses, and perfect sand - shouldn't these guys be good enough to play in anything? When did this change - was it TV?
2. Pro golfers cannot get up before 8:00 to practice or work out - a strict alarm clock regulator should do the trick.
3. All pros are required to smoke a pack a day of cigarettes or cigars, and must have 3 stiff drinks after every round. All Caddies must have a blood alcohol level of at least .09% to be strictly enforced by breathalizer on the 10th tee box.
4. Play barefoot, those guy never play in the cold anyway - what wimps!
5. Nobody can help them find their ball, if it goes in the gallery, the gallery must do its best to steal the ball - just like when we play!
11/8/09
 
mmontisano says:
wow. i think you've successfully lost everyone.

@dave1269
the PGA TOUR almost didn't adopt the new groove rule change. so no, not everyone has to comply. it just makes it incredibly easier for the USGA and R&A if manufacturers comply so the rules officials don't have to inspect every single iron greater than 25 degrees in every participants bag at every single tournament.
11/8/09
 
ipv6freely says:
I must be missing the part where they say the manufacturers are not allowed to sell non-confirming clubs. I'm pretty sure they can sell them, but because they'd have to label them as "non-conforming", nobody will buy them, and they therefore wont bother making them.
11/8/09
 
Kickntrue says:
@ipv6freely- you are right that they COULD, but won't... it's the fact though that for 99,9% of people they WILL BE CONFORMING. why should they have to put a sticker on a club when it is perfectly legal to play. It's not like any of the .1% of the people who must play with the new grooves are buying them off the rack.
11/8/09
 
cgreen919 says:
I agree when you said you thought technology will eventually win. People and companies are always looking for an advantage to get over others. But what changes will these ball companies make to make their products better and more suitable to the new grooves? I know there are always ways, but what are they, how will they be governed by the USGA and how inclined do you think people will be to purchase these products if their costs rise, either through production costs or other expenses?
11/8/09
 
dave1269 says:
@hackman

Thanks for the reminder about the PGA Tour, I had forgotten that the Tour almost did not adopt the new rule. Think of the fun if Tour had decided not to adopt the change. Tour events from January to early June would be conducted with PGA Tour players still using the "old" grooves, then having to switch over to the "new" grooves for the US Open @ Pebble (including those trying to qualify). Was that not one of the reasons for the Tour ultimately deciding to go along?
11/8/09
 
Kickntrue says:
@dave1269 - i think the general consensus is that other golf entities (like the PGA Tour) WANT the USGA and R & A to lead and serve as governing bodies. To ignore the new ruling would have been a slap in the face to that. For the record- the USGA and R & A both said they would not enforce their new rule if the PGA Tour did not accept it... so US Open and British could have played under old grooves despite the new rule.
11/9/09
 
munk24 says:
Hackman, great video, thanks for sharing, have shared on Fb with all my golf friends
11/9/09
 
ipv6freely says:
@Kickntrue exactly.
11/9/09
 
CodeSlinger says:
@ipv6freely:
"I'm pretty sure they can sell them..."

See here: www.golfweek.com/news/2009/nov/03/taylormade-usg
"Although the U.S. Golf Association has approved the wedges, it has told TaylorMade not to sell interchangeable faces with aggressive U grooves."



"...but because they'd have to label them as "non-conforming", nobody will buy them, and they therefore wont bother making them."

I would buy them, because they won't be non-conforming for ME.
11/9/09
 
CodeSlinger says:
@Kickntrue: "...you are right that they COULD [sell non-conforming clubs]..."

Another quote from the same article mentioned above: "Beginning Jan. 1, 2011, manufacturers can no longer make or distribute any clubs with the larger grooves."
11/9/09
 
wedgeguy says:
Lots of good stuff here, guys. A few clarifications.
1. The USGA cannot tell you want to play, only what is conforming or not. The rest is up to you, your local tournament organizer and your conscience.
2. There very well could be a market for good "old" wedges, much like any other classic clubs.
3. The other "manipulations" of the face are also subject to USGA rule regarding face texture, so they will be limited. I'm surprised the USGA apparently is letting some of these fly.
Keep this stuff coming and I'll address in more detail next Friday. Tomorrow I have to name another wedge winner!
11/9/09
 
mjaber says:
What bothers me about the whole TM thing, is that the USGA is TELLING TaylorMade not to sell a product. I'd really like to know what the rules are for manufacturers with this new rule as to how products must be labelled... are there specific requirements for labelling something as "non-conforming" for different levels of play?
11/12/09
 
Albatross says:
I hate to say it, but the USGA is beginning to look like a bunch of pompous old men who want to control a game they no longer understand. This groove rule is a result of players being able to hit it longer, in the rough, and recover. Instead of letting the rough grow the USGA decided to change golf clubs. Their logic escapes me. It appears the USGA wants to keep the game in the past instead of letting it grow and change with the times. I will continue to play the grooves that allow me to enjoy the game, not something from the 1960's or before.
2/4/10
 
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Terry Koehler is "The Wedge Guy" and President of SCOR Golf- The Short Game Company.

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