QA More on Grooves Pro Clubs


Editor's Note: This is the latest in a weekly Q&A feature from The Golf Channel's Chief Technical Advisor Frank Thomas. To submit a question for possible use in this column, email
I play golf for a State Womens Golf Team and am concerned about what the USGA is proposing with regard to changing the groove rules. If the USGA adopts the change, will my clubs be non-conforming?

The USGAs proposal includes a longer grace period for most golfers but also will include a Condition of Competition as of Jan 1, 2009. This means that if you decide to enter the U.S. Womens Open in 2009 and the Condition of Competition is adopted at this event (which is very likely as it is a major USGA Championship involving highly skilled players) then it is very possible that your clubs will not conform and you will have to get a new set if you want to compete.
..the USGA would recommend that the Condition apply only to competitions involving highly skilled players.
Based on the fact that you represent your state in competitions you are considered to be in the category of a skilled player.
I dont know which set of clubs you have at present but they are probably reasonably close to the limit re. the grooves specifications. In essence, the new proposal calls for a decrease in the groove cross sectional area by 50% of what todays specifications presently allow.
.would limit the total cross-sectional area of a groove divided by the groove pitch (width plus separation) to 0.0025 square inches per inch.
The present rules have this limit at 0.005 square inches per inch. So, in essence, the volume of the groove has been cut in half, because the pros on tour spin the ball too much out of the light rough. So if your clubs have grooves which when new were only 60% of the way to the limit by todays specifications, they will be affected by the proposed change and you will need to buy a new set.
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Hope this helps
I am really hoping that you can settle a dispute between my brother and me. You see, he believes that all PGA tour pros have their clubs (irons and woods) hand built, one of a kind, to custom specifications. When he says this he means that the clubs are completely different from their consumer store counter parts; the only shared aspect is the companys logo. Different metals, shapes, and weights. I think that the clubs are the same, but the pros have modifications done that are no different than what I could have done myself at the local Pro Shop, i.e. length, lie, loft, grinding or weighting.
So I guess the real question is, are the name brand clubs found in retail stores the same as the clubs that the endorsing pros are using?

In most cases the basic clubs being used (not necessarily endorsed) by the pros are very similar to those being produced for the general public, but these have been customized for the pros with a few extra grinds or bends, etc.
In some cases the weighting may also have been changed a little. There are also prototype models of clubs the pros get to use that are not yet (and may never be) available to the general public.
To resolve the dispute, I can assure you that very rarely will clubs be specifically hand built from scratch for the pros. This does not mean that they havent been very carefully customized for the pro; it would be the very rare exception if a pro received a standard set off the shelf without some little tweak. But, for the most part, the tweaking is the kind of work that you or your pro can do in a workshop.
Hope this helps.
I am currently using Callaway X-14 irons. I love them, but they are about 10 years old now. How often should you update your irons?

Iron technology has not changed very much when you compare it to the changes that have been made over the last 10 years in drivers. I believe your X-14s were introduced in 2002, and few significant changes have been made to change the overall performance since then. There is, however, the overriding Placebo Effect that comes into play when you buy something new; whether technically better or not, you feel good about the new club, and that feeling gives you confidence. This effect will influence your performance significantly more than the change in technology of the new design.
In its simplest form, an iron is a piece of metal on the end of a stick. This piece of metal has changed in shape over the years to position its center of gravity (c.g.) low and in the center of the face. Also, the material has been distributed to the perimeter of the head to increase the MOI (forgiveness factor). The c.g. has been moved as far toward the back of the head as possible. The sole has also increased in size to create more bounce and more forgiveness of mistakes. All of these things have been incorporated into the design of irons for at least 10 years or more, with only minor tweaks to the design since then.
Bottom line is that there have been many changes, but theyre of small importance when it comes to a performance improvement that we can actually detect. Having said this, we must admit that there is nothing like a brand new set of irons in our bag for a new season. Be careful, however, not to let your old set know that youre thinking about replacing them, especially if youve made good friends of them and they generally do what they are told.
Click to purchase the Frog PutterFrank Thomas, inventor of the graphite shaft, is founder of Frankly Golf, a company dedicated to Helping Golfers. Frank is Chief Technical Advisor to The Golf Channel and Golf Digest. He served as Technical Director of the USGA for 26 years and directed the development of the GHIN System and introduced the Stimpmeter to the world of golf. To email a question for possible use in an upcoming Let's Be Frank column, please email