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Getting into the Groove

Editors Note: Mark Rolfing hosts the Golf Channel show Golf Hawaii. For more information about the show or golf in Hawaii log on to
Recently, the Unites States Golf Association made public its intention to propose rule changes that would limit the way golf equipment manufacturers make grooves on their clubs. This has been a subject of controversy for many years. Now in a letter, the USGA has requested that the manufacturers respond by August 1 with their opinions. I believe this proposal is long overdue.
Essentially, what the USGA is proposing is to limit the size of the current
U-shaped or square grooves so that the club does not impart any more spin on the golf ball than the standard V-grooves. It is estimated that a U-grooved club spins the ball 50% to 100% more revolutions per minute than a club with
V-grooves. The net effect of all this is that players at the highest skill level can hit the ball higher and softer out of thicker and deeper grass. It has dramatically changed the way that tour professionals play the game.
I first remember a shot that Mark Calcavecchia hit out of the rough at The Honda Classic right after the square grooves became legal. It was eye-popping and it didnt take long for the trend to catch on. Golf at the highest level changed from being more a shot-makers game to being more of a power game hit the ball as far as possible and take your chances with a shorter iron even if the ball was in the rough. I was astounded when Vijay Singh utilized this philosophy at the 2003 U.S. Open at Olympia Fields. Honda Classic rough is one thing, but this was the U.S. Open.
There have been many equipment innovations over the years that have dramatically changed the way PGA TOUR and other top level golfers play the game, but none more so than these U-grooves.
On the PGA TOUR, driving accuracy has become one of the least relevant statistics and driving distance has become one of the most. A few years back, of the PGA TOURs top four leading money winners, none ranked within the top 100 in driving accuracy -- yet all four ranked within the top 10 in driving distance. Power has become the name of the game.
At the U.S. Open at Shinnecock Hills in 1995 Ill never forget Corey Pavin hitting the majestic 4-wood into the 72nd green for victory. In the 2004 U.S. Open, again on the 72nd hole, Retief Goosen hit a wedge into that very same green. Long drivers with todays big-headed metal clubs are exciting as are short irons out of the rough to a tightly placed hole location. But I still believe the most exciting shot in golf is a long iron or a fairway wood into a small green. These are the shot-makers shots.
I applaud the USGA for making the groove change proposal. It is bold, but necessary. I hope the equipment manufacturers agree and all indications are that this change would have very little effect on the average golfer. However, at the championship level, a change like this can only help protect the integrity of this great game. Its the right thing to do and the right time. In fact, its about time!

Editors Note: Mark Rolfing, a Maui resident, is one of the leading forces in sports event marketing and production in Hawaii. As NBC Sports award-winning golf commentator, Rolfing continues to cover top golf events such as the prestigious Ryder Cup, The Players Championship and The U.S Open. Rolfing also hosts Golf Hawaii on The Golf Channel. Golf Hawaii, now in its twelfth season is one of the longest running sports shows in the nation.