USGA Equipment Rules Proposed

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On Tuesday, the U.S. Golf Association proposed changes to the Rules of Golf that govern grooves on golf clubs and the adjustability of clubs. The full proposal can be found on the USGA website. Here are the basics:
 
New Groove Regulations Proposals
 
WHAT: Effective limitations on the sharpness and spacing of grooves on the face of golf clubs ' that is, irons and wedges. Edges will have to be no less than .010 inches in radius. (The existing standard is not sharp to the finger.) Also, the total cross-sectional area of a groove (the surface area of its walls and floor) divided by the pitch of the groove (the width of the groove plus the width of the flat portion that exists between it and the next groove) will be limited to .0025 square inches per inch. (This would be a new standard.)
 
USGA
(WireImages)
EFFECT: Grooved clubs, especially wedges, would be harder to spin when used with urethane-covered, soft golf balls of the kind favored on the PGA Tour and by many elite players. The new groove limitations would do little, if anything, to affect the performance of balls covered with Surlyn and other harder materials. According to the USGA, these harder balls are what most recreational players use. Also, players who do not generate Tour-level clubhead speed would be less likely to notice a difference in the behavior of balls hit with new grooves.
 
WHY: The USGA determined that the games elite players can too often bomb their drives and still hit good, spinning second shots, even from bad lies in the rough. Therefore, the importance of driving accurately has declined, says the USGA.
 
The skill of driving the ball accurately has become much less important in achieving success on Tour than it used to be, said Dick Rugge, the USGAs senior technical director. Our analysis of statistical data measured by the PGA Tour since 1980 shows that historically, driving accuracy was as comparably correlated to winning as putting. Beginning in the early 1990s, however, driving accuracy became much less important. Today, the correlation between driving-accuracy rank and money winning rank on the PGA Tour is very low.
 
WHEN: On the tours, not until January 1, 2010 (although tournament committees would be able to adopt a Condition of Competition employing the new rules, assuming they become golf law, on January 1, 2009). However, clubs in use or manufactured that conform to existing rules before the new rule is implemented would have a lengthy grace period ' at least 10 years, the USGA says.
 
NEW V-GROOVE ERA? Not necessarily, says the USGA. Once the proposals are adopted, grooves need not be V-shaped to comply. As long as the measurement limitations are satisfied, a groove can be any shape, Rugge said. That can mean deep and thin or shallow and wide. They can be small and relatively close together or large and far apart. The USGA set up the formula this way to allow design flexibility, Rugge said.
 
New Adjustability Proposals
 
WHAT: A rule that would allow woods and irons to be adjustable for more than just weight ' which is what is currently allowed.
 
EFFECT: Manufacturers could design clubs whose playing characteristics could be tailored to the golfer, by the golfer.
 
WHY: It would fine-tune club customization, leading to better play and more enjoyment. Clubs would still have to be constructed in a way that would not make for easy adjustability during a round. In the USGAs view, this would maintain fairness and the focus on the application of skill, not just technology. This approach would protect the core attributes of the game.
 
WHEN: If adopted, the proposal would become effective January 1, 2008.
 
CAN WE ADJUST? This should be an exciting opportunity for club wizards, who may be able to make clubs fit the demands of golfers ' and in some cases, course ' as never before. Ladies and gentlemen, start your innovation engines.
 
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