New Rules Will Impact Club Grooves

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

The Royal & Ancient and U.S. Golf Association announced a rule change yesterday that will reduce the size and shape of grooves in most clubs in 2010, the first time equipment has been scaled back in nearly 80 years.

The change was directed toward elite players and emphasizes the importance of hitting the ball in the fairway.

Research over the last several years indicated that sharper, deeper grooves in irons produced so much spin that players could hit into the rough and still control iron shots to the green.

USGA President Jim Vernon said that while driving accuracy in the 1980s was as critical to success on the PGA Tour as putting, over the last five years, the importance of accuracy was of hardly any consequence.

"We undertook a world-class research effort to discover why that might have happened," he said. "Our attention focused on grooves."

The R&A and USGA did not ban U-grooves, also known as square grooves. Equipment maker Ping won a court case in the 1980s over the right to use such grooves in its Ping-Eye 2 irons. Rather, the size of the grooves must be slightly smaller and have rounded edges instead of sharp edges on wedges through 5-irons.

PGA Tour player Jim Furyk was among those who responded favorably to the change.

"They can't keep making golf courses longer, because not every course has a $20 million budget," Furyk said. "And they can't keep us from hitting the ball far, because there's enough engineers and R&D and technology that keeps us getting longer. If you can limit the amount of spin on the ball and make the guy play from the fairway, it's probably a good avenue."

Vernon said he did not anticipate any lawsuits. "We think we're in good legal position in case a manufacturer does feel necessary to file a lawsuit," he said.

The policy will be effective in 2010. The USGA and R&A said it would be enforced only at major championships and tour events around the world, such as the PGA, European PGA and LPGA tours.

As for the recreational player, irons made before 2010 will conform to the Rules of Golf until at least 2024. Consumer research shows that only 2 percent of all irons are older than 15 years.

-- From News Services

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