The Lies Being Told About Grooves
You Heard The Truth Here First

As we get nearer to the end of the year, and start the U.S. Open (if they get to play it!), the issue of the USGA Ruling on grooves has made its way into the news more and more, and I have never seen such a level of misinformation in my life (well, maybe on our national political level, but I will refrain from that topic). And I’ll bet you’re going to hear lots about it during the weekend telecasts, especially if they have to fill time due to rain delays.

The media has messed this up so much that even tour players are talking about “when we go back to V grooves”. And yesterday, I got a “scare tactic” promotional email from one of the challenger wedge brands that announced right in the subject line, “USGA To Eliminate Square Grooves”. The email went on to say that:

“The USGA has implemented a rule change that the PGA Tour will adopt for next season, eliminating the use of square grooves on wedges.”

This is just an out and out lie being told to try to sell you their wedges!!! In fact, it’s two lies, because the PGA Tour hasn’t decided whether to imply the new rule at all yet.

So, in the spirit of public information, guys, let me set the record straight about what is going on with the “great groove issue”. With the true facts, you can be the recognized expert in your group and at your club with regard to what the real story is about the new ruling governing grooves on wedges.

The Big Lie. “Square grooves are being outlawed.”

The USGA Rule does nothing of the sort. It does not propose to govern at all what the shape of grooves can be, any differently than the current rule. We can continue to make our grooves shaped like a “V”, a “U” or “square”. On EIDOLON V-SOLE wedges, as with most others with CNC-milled grooves, the groove sides have a slight draft to them to allow the cutter to work more efficiently. Call it a “modified ‘V’” if you will. Most cast-in-place grooves have a “U” shape, as the sharp corners in the bottom of the grooves are filled in during the casting process.

The new rule does not require us to rely only on ‘V’ grooves!!! Oh, and the rule doesn’t only apply to wedges, but to all clubs with 24* of loft or more.

What the rule really does.

The rule change has three substantive parts. First, it changes the way manufacturers have to measure our grooves and spacing. Before, we only had to concern ourselves with the groove width, depth and space between the grooves. Those requirements and measurements haven’t changed, but the USGA added a fourth measurement requirement that defines a formula for the volume of groove dimension per inch of face. In simple terms, square grooves would have to be further apart than ‘v’ grooves because they can channel away more grass and moisture.

Secondly, the rule adds a new aspect, in that we will have to ensure that the edges of the grooves have a slight radius on them, whereas currently we can offer you the nice sharp edges that result from the milling process. That, fellow golfers, will likely be the key to a reduction in spin from the newly conforming wedges and irons made after the rule goes into effect.

Third, and most importantly, the rule has a “condition of competition” which says that the implementation of the Rule is up to the tournament committee as to whether or not it is implied, and suggests further that the rule “only be applied to competitions involving ‘expert’ players” – in other words, the PGA Tour and USGA competitions. It clearly states that the USGA plans to implement the Rule for its major championships in 2010, but that all currently conforming clubs will be approved for play until “at least 2024!

But here’s the kicker. The PGA Tour hasn’t decided whether or not it will imply the rule anyway. In an interview this week, a USGA official said that if the PGA Tour doesn’t apply the rule, then they probably won’t apply it to the US Open either. And as I understand it, some major manufacturers are “lobbying” the PGA not to apply the rule in 2010.

So, this story is going to be well worth watching the next few months, and my bet is that it’s not nearly over yet. I wouldn’t even be surprised if the rule was overturned and rejected entirely.

The fact is that the PGA Tour players spin the ball more due to their extraordinary skills than their equipment. We’ve built wedges for some tour players and they suggest they might spin the ball “too much”. Sheesh. Have you ever played with one of these guys? They have so much talent and skill that they’ll figure out a way to spin the ball with whatever they are required to play.

If the USGA really wants to control low scoring, they should be addressing how far the ball goes and do away with the provision that allows bunkers to be raked. They could ban soft, receptive greens and make everyone wear steel spikes to make greens more unpredictable. [You know I’m kidding, right?]

The fact is that the best players in the game will always be better than the rest of us. And if the PGA Tour wants to set courses up so that they can shoot 25 under par, then let them. The USGA can continue to make their Open courses 7,500 yards, with 22-yard fairways and greens that don’t allow a dart game, and keep those winning scores around par.

But leave the rest of us alone. How many of your buddies are making a mockery of your course because of their ability to spin their wedges? I sure don’t know any like that.
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[ comments ]
mjaber says:
I thought I read somewhere that Titleist was trying to stop, or at least delay the implementation of the rule so that they could do more research on its impact on the ball. I think they were trying to get the other major ball manufacturers involved as well. Is that true, or just rumor?
bducharm says:
The Titleist rep for our area is a member at our country club. I spoke to him about this the other day. He said that Titleist is already testing about 15 different ball combinations with Tour guys. We'll see what happens.
Albatross says:
The USGA has lost sight of what the game is all about. It appears that if they had their way we would still be playing the equipment Bobby Jones played in the 1920's and 30's. The USGA needs to recognize players are better and the equipment has improved. What is wrong with that? The USGA believes par is sacred. They need to join the 21st century.
Albatross says:
Forgot to add; Thank Terry for the groove update. It will help me straighten out some of the mis-informed in my area. The rumors are rampant.
laphroaig says:
If any rule about details such as grooves is really meant to have an impact, it must be written with respect to all other details of the same kind, e.g. balls, shafts etc, on the same level of detail. True impact is therefore only possible with a one-of-a-kind production of equipment, probably from a single producer. That is not probable. What is probable is that the player himself has more to do with what happens on the course.
onedollarwed says:
Perhaps as prize/sponsor money grows, competition imnproves. Not to say that the top golfer of any era is better or worse than another, but 1-500 say? I wonder if many of todays top golfers would be playing other sports or pursuing other vocations. Meaning... like Wedgy says, the skills are better as a whole vs. par. I don't follow the game, and have only a basic understanding of the history, but, the type of competition has changed. Do all top players need to play a more extreme game now, independent of eqipment?
falcon50driver says:
You last two posters are the same guy aren't you. Neither of you make any sense at all. What exactly is your point?
sdinwiddie says:
The fact is the USGA wastes way too much of its time trying to govern how people play the game golf by placing limits on the manufacturing of golf equipment. How about we dedicate some of that money and energy into actually growing the number of people who play the game of golf? What is over-complexing wedge design to limit the amount of spin Joe Golfer can get around the greens going to do to grow the game? Yes - limiting distance off the tee for professionals is not to render 95% of the golf courses in the world useless. But limiting spin? So what...

You want to make the game more attractive...revamp the broken HDCP system we've had for 20 years. You see it at every single course across the country...sandbaggers. Let's go back to signing/witnessing every single card from every single round...surely with the Internet and technology we can do something there.

How can we make the game more enjoyable and accessible for more people?
kidputter says:
There's nothing wrong with the HDCP system. The problem lies with the golfers themselves. Cheaters will find a way to manipulate their HDCP anyway. If people are found to be sandbagging, REVOKE their membership from the USGA. If they're not in the USGA, the HDCP is not valid anyway.
Hacker Al says:
Totally agree with Kidputter's statement.
Hacker Al says:
....and Albatross nice comments
Backquak says:
I agree with kidputter, the hdcp system isn't broken, it works well to reflect a golfers skill level and potential, it's the cheaters that aggravate us. I think the system needs some improvements though. I am a Team Roper also, and in team roping events we get numbered by an association that uses event results, fellow competitors opinions, and the individual's opinion to calculate each person's number or HDCP. We have to pay association dues each year to participate in the events and our number or HDCP can change anytime. Ofcourse, if the USGA would let amatuers win more than $750 per event, this would already be done, and we would have more tournaments for each of our skill levels. The Golf Channel Amatuer Tour looks promising. And each Tournament could regulate what equipment could be used... I'm game for a hickory and balata challenge.
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Terry Koehler is "The Wedge Guy" and President of SCOR Golf- The Short Game Company.

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