What do new groove rules mean for average player


Remember Callaway Golf’s commercial for the ERC family? The face of the export version of the driver exceeded the COR limit under the Rules of Golf that applied in the United States at the time. In a TV commercial, a father and son leave the U.S. rather than play under what they consider restrictive driving rules. It was funny, of course, and all part of the hoopla surrounding the advent of springy-faced drivers.
Thank goodness no one is going crazy over the impending restrictions on grooves, because it won’t change golf for most of us – just as hot drivers haven’t. Technically, the new groove shape rules apply to clubs with 25 or more degrees of loft – essentially, 5-irons and shorter, and not drivers or putters. But as a practical matter, they’re aimed at wedges.
Background: On Jan. 1, 2010, certain dimensions of clubface grooves will have to adhere to ratios prescribed by the game’s rulemaking bodies, the U.S. Golf Association and the Royal & Ancient Golf Club of St. Andrews. The sharpness of the groove edges will round off ever so slightly, making it tougher to spin the ball out of the rough and other bad lies. (The groove can still have a flat bottom; it need not be a complete “V.”) The idea is to put more emphasis on driving the ball in the fairway, of course, since pros can spin it out of piled cotton balls if they want. And the 2010 activation date will only apply to professional tournaments.
Here are the two facts recreational players are fast becoming aware of: 1) Most of us don’t generate enough clubhead speed to spin our wedge shots like pros do, especially out of the rough; (So we’re not losing anything by losing square grooves.) and 2) the grace period is half a generation long. Yes, we weekend players can keep our so-called square grooves until 2024. That’s right…a 14-year grace period – at least.
I ran into USGA senior technical director Dick Rugge and the PGA Merchandise Show; he confirmed the “at least” part. (It’s also mentioned on the USGA website.) The next level of enforcement would be top-level amateur tournaments, and the date being considered for those is 2014.
So the way we watch top-level professional golf may change. But for most of us, the way we play won’t.