LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. – The final official PGA Tour event of the season seems the perfect place to test drive some new equipment with an eye toward 2010 and an impending rules change regarding grooves. That is if you’ve already secured your job for 2010.
At least a dozen players will put the 2010 conforming wedges in play this week at the Children’s Miracle Network Classic, and most players agree the impact of the rule change will not be as sweeping as originally feared.
“It’s much ado about nothing, at least score wise,” said Davis Love III, who will be playing his third Tour event with conforming wedges. “Is it going to change the Tour? No. Tiger [Woods] is still going to be really, really good.”
The new rule applies to all clubs, but most players already play conforming grooves in their irons. The only adjustment for the lion’s share of Tour players will be in their wedges and most agree the impact will be negligible.
From fairway lies, tests indicate a Tour player gets 3 to 4 percent less spin with the conforming grooves, which are smaller than the old grooves and not as sharp along the edges. “You really can’t tell the difference,” said Heath Slocum, who put the new wedges in play at the Frys.com Open. “Maybe a foot of extra roll on the greens. I couldn’t tell any difference.”
From the rough, however, there is a tendency for the ball to roll up the clubface, creating a shot with less spin that comes out higher than players are used to.
“You’re going to see players go to wedges with less loft,” said Todd Anderson, the swing coach for Charles Howell III and Charles Warren. “A guy will go from 60 (degrees) to 56 (degrees) to control shots better.”
Touch shots from the first cut of rough are also a concern for some players.
“From 80 yards out of the rough it’s going to be tough to control,” said Warren, who is 144th in earnings and did not switch to the new grooves at Disney as he attempts to break into the top 125 and secure his ’10 Tour card.
According to Titleist officials, at least six players, including Love and Zach Johnson, will play the new Vokey Design C-C wedges; while Slocum, Chris DiMarco, D.A. Points and Daniel Chopra plan to put Ping’s new offerings in play at Disney.
Equipment representatives for TaylorMade said none of their players are changing this week – although many were testing the new clubs out of Disney’s Bermuda rough – while a Callaway official said the company’s conforming line has been slowed by the U.S. Golf Association approval process and shipment of the new clubs is about a week away.
Callaway is not alone in its struggles to provide players with conforming wedges. Love said when he normally tests new equipment Titleist ships three versions of the same model for his approval. Because of limited supplies, however, the company provided just a single version of each new model.
“Davis Love gets his wedges one of the first three or four guys. There's still guys way down the list on other tours that are still waiting because they made sure everybody else got their’s first,” Love said. “I [asked], let's just say I wanted five of each to experiment with, what would you say? They said, you're going to have to wait.”
The USGA set up a groove testing shop across the hall from the player check-in at Disney. The process takes about 10 to 15 minutes per club and features an epoxy that is applied to the clubface, which is then run through a scanner before being analyzed by a specially-designed program.