QA My Take on Grooves


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 really do enjoy your column and I know that you will be able to answer my question about grooves on wedges. Do new sharp grooves make a difference to the spin on the ball when I hit the ball from a tee? -- Jim, N.C.

The answer is NO they dont. If you have a sandblasted face this will probably do as much or more to increase the spin than a grooved face. When you are hitting out of the rough then grooves do matter and the better defined they are the better off you are to get some spin on the ball. The rough condition will always reduce the spin from a wedge when compared to a dry condition but from deep (4 to 6 inch) heavy rough it doesnt matter what ball you play or configuration of grooves you have on your wedge.
This is the point I have tried to make in my Frankly Friends Newsletter this month (click here to read). The USGA has more important things to worry about than thinking about changing the groove configuration because some pros are able to get out of the rough relatively easily with out too much concern about being there. My proposal is to lengthen the rough for those situations where this is important. The upheaval of changing groove specifications is not worth it. Read the newsletter and tell us what you think by voting.
Why do we 'average' golfers have to be subjected to the current rage of super fast greens? Greens with undulations or swales as we call them - OK. It discourages me, and I can only speak for myself. Also, there is too much variation of green speeds between courses.
If the Pros can only separate the men from the boys by playing on pool tables or glass so be it.

Why do we 'average' golfers have to be subjected to the current rage of super fast greens? Greens with undulations or swales as we call them - OK. It discourages me, and I can only speak for myself. Also, there is too much variation of green speeds between courses.
If the Pros can only separate the men from the boys by playing on pool tables or glass so be it.
I just read your study on 'Growing the Game' and liked it. This subject should be added. And I am not a 'bad' putter. -- Ken, Texas

There is no doubt that fast greens in combination with severe undulations, do not help the cause of trying to make the game more enjoyable for the average golfer. The game is not growing and in fact participation is flat having fallen for some time. There are some projections that the number of course closings will, for the first time in nearly 70 years, match the number of new course openings.
Based on our research study report (see Growing the Game by clicking here) we have confirmed what most of us know, that the game not only takes too long to play 18 holes, but costs too much and most of us are not deriving as much pleasure from playing as we used to. One of the reasons for this is that in many cases we are playing from the wrong set of tees. The survey of over 18,400 golfers from 44 countries around the world (largest survey on this subject ever done) also show that we seem to overestimate the distance we drive the ball by 30 to 40 yards.
Also courses designed for scratch golfers are too challenging for the average golfer even though the tees are set forward. This forward tee position does little to ease the tough approach shots, which again are designed to challenge very good golfers.
Ken, you are right that fast greens with undulations have had a detrimental affect on the enjoyment factor for a lot of golfers.
When in 1976 I redesigned a device to measure the speed of greens (I called it the Stimpmeter because I worked with a concept originally developed by Eddie Stimpson in 1935) I also developed an instruction brochure with suggested speeds for average play. These have been exceeded by a significant amount.
This has come about for two reasons; the ability to make greens faster without ruining them and this was spurred on to attain bragging rights for having the fastest greens around. This is not good for many golfers as it presents an inappropriate challenge, which spoils the round in many cases.
I will certainly include this issue in Phase II of the research study, which is in the fund raising stage at this time. I'll also have more to say about this subject in my soon to be completed book.

Thanks for your interest and concern about the game that a lot of us enjoy so much.
If you are serious about improving your game, rather than just wanting to improve your scores, is it better to be hitting a 'more forgiving iron' OR is it better to learn to hit a less forgiving iron correctly?
Thanks for your opinion. Lori

This is a tough one. Let me say that there are not too many golfers who really want to improve their game through hard work and practice. It is easier and less time consuming to go out and buy a forgiving set of clubs that will forgive our miss hits and work almost as well as those clubs designed for the pros.
There is nothing better than hitting the sweet spot on a blade iron but also nothing very exciting about missing that spot. So to improve your game (skills) you should probably strive to use a set which is a little better than you are and keep moving up as your skills improve. It is not much fun hitting bad shots and forgiving clubs reduce this somewhat. But they also make you lazy in that you rely on the forgiveness and this reduces the incentive to improve your skills. Forgiving clubs will probably keep you playing the game for fun but blades will definitely give you a good measure of how much you need to work on you game to improve your skills.
I have been under the impression that in tournament golf (pro or am) that the same make and compression ball had to be used throughout the round, but I have been told by a fellow golfer that there is no rule requiring this. What is the official rule? -- JB
What you are referring to is what is known as the One Ball Condition.
This is a Condition of the competition as established by the committee in charge of the event. It (the committee) may or may not adopt the condition. If it does then the competitors must be so advised.
For competitions involving expert players there are some conditions, which are recommended by the USGA, and you can find these in the rule book. These include using only Driver Heads, which are listed as having been tested, and conform. Also the competitors may use only a ball listed on the conforming list. The other condition recommended for expert players is the One Ball Condition which should state; During a stipulated round the balls a player plays must be of the same brand and type as detailed by a single entry on the current List of Conforming Golf Balls.
If posted, this means that the committee has decided to enforce this, or those Conditions of the Competition and the penalty for violation of any of these specific conditions is disqualification in stroke play.
The Rules of Golf only require that you play with conforming equipment. However, to be sure that it does conform the USGA has provided a list on its website referring to clubs and balls which have been tested and found to conform. This doesnt mean that others dont conform, but to be sure, the committee may choose to post the list and the condition.
The background behind the adoption of this rule is lengthy but in essence it is designed to prevent golfers from taking advantage of the performance differences of various balls for specific conditions which confront them on different holes. For example, using a low flying ball into the wind or a high spinning ball on a par three hole etc.
JB, unless you are in a competition where these conditions are posted you dont have to worry about them. The PGA Tour and many State and College events including all USGA championships adopt this condition.
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