There is a good chance this ball "flys."
Flyers and Other Lies
With all the news and commentary about the new groove rule, which affects all irons, (not just wedges, by the way), some of the talk is about the USGA’s attempt to return the “flyer” to the game of golf. Apparently, some of you are not old enough, or haven’t played long enough to understand just what that is, since we’ve been playing irons and wedges with high-tech square grooves for some time now. So, when David S. from Palm Beach, FL posed his question, it seemed rather timely. David asked:
Can you explain the physics of the “flyer” and what is a “flyer lie”? I assume, as the pros will have to start using the new grooves next year, that we will start to hear more about this.
Well, David, let’s start with an examination of just what a flyer is how it happens. Very simply, a ball sitting in the rough is sure to cause grass to get between the face and the ball. When this happens, the ability of the grooves and clubface to securely grip the ball is greatly reduced. In the old days, when grooves were stamped into irons after forging, they had a rounded edge which practically eliminated the ability of the club to get any grip on the ball whatsoever. The result was a virtual knuckle-ball that jumped off the club with minimal spin. These shots invariably would fly 10-30 yards further than when hit with the same club from a clean fairway lie, and they would not hold a green at all. Players would read their lie and allow for this, though calculating the exact amount of “flier-ness” was a very inexact science. Not surprisingly, up until the early 1990s, wins and money list rankings very closely paralleled the stats for fairways hit.

Since then, more and more irons feature cast-in-place or machined grooves, both of which have much sharper edges than the old stamped grooves. So even though there is still grass between the face and ball, the sharp edged grooves can still get a reasonable grip on the ball, which practically eliminated the flyer. That ability ushered in the era of “bomb and gouge” golf, not just on tour but for all golfers. And on tour, statistics prove that hitting fairways has little to do with winning tournaments or making money. The average of the entire tour is just over 60% fairways hit. So, these guys can shoot in the 60s and low 70s while playing 5-6 holes from the rough every round.

The USGA determined that this was not good for golf, and re-wrote the rule defining how grooves must be structured to conform. No, ‘V’ grooves are not mandated, and square grooves are not going away, but all manufacturers will have to begin to impart a radius to the edge of a finished groove to make them more like the stamped-in grooves of old. And yes, the flier is sure to return to golf.

So, just what is a “flier lie”? When your ball is sitting down in the rough, where the club cannot make clean contact, you’ll likely experience a flier. But each type of grass produces different results, actually. In the south, where our roughs are typically Bermuda grass, fliers tend to be worse if the grass is not overly thick and moist. In “stickier” grasses like fescue or bent, the ball tends to often come out heavy, as it will on heavily irrigated Bermuda.

So, all of us will be taking a crash course on “lie analysis” when we begin playing irons and wedges with the new groove geometry. Since you can’t do anything about it, I suggest you make it a challenge and have some fun with the learning experience. After all, the fact that every round of golf . . . every shot . . . is entirely different is one of the fascinating appeals of this crazy game we all love. Right?


photo credit
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 ]
oobscott2 says:
i don't think the flier has gone away even with new grooves. i had ping s59 irons (definitely new grooves), and there is a course around here that has long fairways (essentially the first cut on pro courses) and i always hit the ball 10 yds farther from these fairways than courses with pro style fairways
9/22/09
 
Kickntrue says:
The thing I can't figure out with all this talk about new grooves.... it doesn't even matter to 99.9% of us until 2024- and even though, who cares unless you're in a tournament (if it hasn't been revoked/changed by then)? Are companies going to stop making updated grooves and selling us old technology starting next year just so we can play what the pros do? Personally- I'm planning on hitting W grooves if they help my game until someone tells me to stop.
9/22/09
 
banatmfees says:
my full shots out of the rough rarely travel far enough, so i'll take that extra 30yds, lol.
9/23/09
 
Banker85 says:
I don't even know what kind of grooves my clubs have, I'm not at the level were i should care, but i usually can get some crisp shots out of the rough for some reason. For me its all about getting the club on the ball first, Putting the ball a little forward, and gripping down about 1/2 inch.
9/23/09
 
onedollarwed says:
So the flyer isn't a fluff? I think maybe I'm more apt to chunk it out of rough. I need to raise my game to an elite level to get flyers?
Heh, Heh. See I told you about Fairway%!!!
9/25/09
 
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Terry Koehler is "The Wedge Guy" and President of SCOR Golf- The Short Game Company.

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