The Ping® Controversy on Tour
I normally answer reader questions about the short game on Tuesdays, but I received a large number of questions about my take on the controversy regarding some of the players using old Ping® Eye 2® wedges as a way to "get around" the new groove ruling, so I thought I would address the subject. But because I do give away an EIDOLON V-SOLE every week on Tuesday, from that batch of questions, I randomly selected Matt F. as our winner. Here's how Matt stated his email to me:
What's your take on Phil and other PGA players reverting to the Ping Eye II wedges? Is it cheating or using a loophole? Are others calling it cheating because they didn't think of it first or can't get their hands on the wedges?
First of all, Matt, "cheating" is a very strong allegation, and the rather careless use of the word has caused a firestorm out there on Tour. That may well be another story in itself, as Mickelson was seen in an interview using the word "slandered" and saying to the interviewer "it's in other people’s hands now." Only time will tell what that may mean.

Let's start with the facts that led to this. You may remember a lawsuit Ping filed against the USGA when their groove geometry was ruled non-conforming. It cost both parties huge sums of lawyer fees, and most golfers thought that the USGA was trying to "outlaw" square grooves. That was NOT the case. The USGA was challenging the spacing between the grooves, claiming that they were too close together, and the lawsuit ended up being about how the width and spacing of grooves were measured, not the shape of them. The USGA found themselves in an engineering argument with an engineer, not a good place to be.

And they lost.

Ping agreed to change their groove geometry for clubs made from that point forward, but the USGA settled that all Ping irons made prior to April 1, 1990 would be "grandfathered" and approved for play, essentially forever, with the settlement allowing that the grandfathered irons would not be subject to future rulings.

So, what we have here is that these old irons and wedges DO NOT conform to the current rule regarding grooves, but they are ALLOWED as a result of the lawsuit settlement.

What’s interesting to me is that, at the center of the lawsuit was the groove edge radius, and how it affected groove spacing. The USGA argued that this radius caused the grooves to be too close together. Ping argued, and won, that their way of measuring groove width followed engineering principle and standards. I thought then and now, that the USGA lawyers botched the case. Hear me out.

The rules then, and now, state that "the face must be essentially flat, except that a part of the face may be recessed in the form of grooves or dots," then it goes on to define the width and depth of those depressions. So, it stands to logic that when the depression departs from the plane of the face, it becomes part of the "groove or dot," right. I'm not a lawyer (whew!), but it seems to me the USGA’s argument should have been that the groove starts where it leaves the plane, not at some "engineering standard" about measuring something. Oh well, that’s history now, and was long forgotten until two weeks ago.

What's really, really interesting is that this radius, in fact, is much like the radius we manufacturers are now forced to imply to the edge of grooves to ensure they comply with the new rule . . . when it is enforced as a Condition of Competition.

The other thing that is amazing to me is how Mickelson, who is a head-to-toe Callaway® guy, is at the top of a story that is giving Ping® hundreds of thousands of dollars of FREE publicity. I would think Callaway would have been very unhappy about this, as Ping is a formidable competitor for them. How Mickelson could take millions of dollars annually to be a Callaway guy, and then be in the middle of a Ping story has got to be frustrating at the very least over in the Callaway camp.

So, this story is not over and we’ll be seeing more on it. In the meantime, if you have some old pre-1990 Ping Eye 2 wedges or irons in your garage or basement, it looks like now is the time to put them on Ebay. They’ll bring top dollars by those misinformed souls who think they’ve stumbled on a secret. I’ll let you in on a real one -- they don’t spin anywhere near as much as the current offerings from EIDOLON and even the other brands with milled grooves.

Hope you enjoy your new wedge, Matt, and I’ll see you guys on Friday. Please chime in with your comments on this subject, and send your questions for me to answer in upcoming columns. We have 48 more new EIDOLON wedges to give away!
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 ]
Tee it High. says:
I think people are missing the whole point of this wedge use by Phil. He is doing this to highlight a injustice he felt was done to Callaway and show how ridiculous the rule is. As he has mentioned several times in interviews Callaway brought a conforming wedge to the USGA and it was not approved because they felt it spun too much regardless of the groove shape and spacing. This infuriated Callaway and Phil so they put the Ping Eye 2's in play to basically piss people off. Heck Callaway even bent and ground the soles for Phil on the Ping wedges.
Optimus Prime says:
Thanks for clearing that up.

I think Phil said it all--authorized versus unauthorized. They may not be conforming, but the are authorized!
Century1 says:
The manufacturers are doing just what they should be doing which is to improve
their product. (based on existing rules) Example,, Eidelon received
a patent on their sole design. These wedges were played on tour so they must have conformed. Should rules be written or rewritten in order to impead the sole function of a wedge, just because the pros are getting better. Good on Phil. Callaway is getting the raw end of the meat here, but not from Phil. The crowds like, and always have liked the precision aim at the bullseye play around the greens much more than the long straight drive. Just watch the galleries, and listen to the crowds.
Matt F says:
Thanks for the comments and wedge Terry. Looking forward to having it in my bag.

mmontanaro says:
You're right Wedge Guy- Ping is getting free publicity- but not good publicity, IMO. The way I see it, the original settlement was to "protect the millions of Ping Eye2 users" (from Ping's statement) out there. How many of them are left? How many people, outside of this rule change, are still playing Ping Eye2 wedges made before April 1990? So Ping is basically saying the innovation of the last 20 years is meaningless, you should play your old clubs. I guess they don't want any new sales... well, OK! I guess all the stuff they sell us about new clubs being innovative and saving my game doesn't mean anything. OK. I won't be purchasing any new clubs this year.
georgelohr says:
So 1988 Ping Eye2 Beryllium wedges are good to go? What part of the serial number tells date of manufacture? I may have found a gold mine!
Matt F says:
@georgelohr: If they're 1988 they're good to go. Usually Ping have a sticker on them that shows the date...unless it was taken off. Push comes to shove, contact Ping with the serial number and they can tell you exactly when they were made.

GolfSpyT says:
My guess here is that Phil's decision to play the Eye2 was a calculated bet by Callaway that the resulting noise would force the USGA to take yet another look at the new groove rule. I'm also not a lawyer, but I can't help but think the end game here might be a few more lawsuits that argue that allowing what is essentially a non-conforming wedge from one company (which the USGA has to do based on their settlement with PING), gives that competitor an unfair advantage in the marketplace. I'll admit it's a stretch since the Eye2 is no longer manufactured, but marketplace is a fairly broad term, and well, people and corporations have sued over a lot less.
kingwood hacker says:
I think that this whole thing is based on ridiculous rule to begin with. Every major sport over the last 3 decades has changed to increase offense. Baseball moved in fences, hockey has moved the blue line, basketball stopped calling charges, and football has made it basically impossible to hit a quarterback. Golf on the other hand, is changing the rules so that it's harder to make birdies. I don't know about you, but I would rather see a guy win who drives it 320, but sometimes sprays it and has to pull off a miracle recovery shot and stop it close and make the birdie putt to win than watch a guy who hits it 280 down the middle and shoots for the middle of every green then two putts. Last week, we saw Ben Crane make a 4 footer for par to win on the par 5 18th at Torrey Pines. That's great for him, but I much prefer tiger's birdie putt in the '08 us open on the same hole. Guess where the shot before that came from, the rough with a 60* wedge with grooves that could tear a golf ball apart. Now obviously
kingwood hacker says:
Now obviously Tiger’s was in a major and his leg was about to fall apart, but there’s no way he pulls that wedge shot off with today’s grooves.
So, I think that this whole controversy needs to be thrown back in the USGA’s face. Maybe it will make them revisit their thinking. I doubt it, but just maybe.
k-von says:
Saw an Eye2 wedge go for $214 (not including shipping) today on ebay. That's ridiculous.
lcgolfer64 says: has a used Eye 2 Beryllium Copper wedge 'on sale' now for only $144.50
Concur k-von - a bit ridiculous
bducharm says:
Saw that the PGA Tour was contemplating passing a local rule to outlaw the old Ping wedges. Ping may be getting publicity but they aren't selling any new product of it - just the old stuff. I don't disagree with the USGA ruling - it has been a bit ridiculous the way players can stop a ball out of the rough. Bomb and Gauge may need to be reevaluated a bit...
cgreen919 says:
Personally, I think that the decision for tour players to use the Ping wedges is their choice. Yes, it is a way around the new rule changes, however, I believe the USGA should have taken into account the possibility of this happening. The people who make these rules were more then likely aware of what could happen, yet chose to ignore it and now tour players and common-folk alike are lacing into those that are using these wedges. While I understand why people feel that way, it is because of the hard work and long hours these players put in to their game that gives them the ability to manipulate the ball the way they do. The publicity for Ping could help, but realistically, its not moving any new product, therefore not generating profits. Their name was already out there, but they can' re-release these wedges, so I don't know how beneficial it really will be. I guess only time will tell.
Albatross says:
What difference does it make if the Pro's can spin it out of the rough? Who is this game for? The 1% that makes up the Professional ranks or the 99% of us who are just trying to have fun? The USGA is trying to role back the skills of the best players to something in the past to "preserve par", while the rest of us suffer. This could have all been handled with deeper more severe rough recommendations. If the rough was 6"+ deep outside the first cut the grooves wouldn't matter. If you have been watching the first few tournaments of the year, there is little or no change in the Pro's ability to stop the ball or even back it up. The USGA is living in the past. All things change as technology improves. Let the Pro's make birdies from the rough. Who cares as long as it is exciting golf to watch. Par golf is boring. That is why the US Open is not as exciting as the Masters.
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Terry Koehler is "The Wedge Guy" and President of SCOR Golf- The Short Game Company.

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