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Golf club manufacturers, with help from the USGA, are getting their grooves on

Kristen By Kristen "Golf Chick" Williams,
Graeme Storm
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So what if PGA Tour players hit the green 49 percent of the time from 100-200 yards! (Courtesy PGA of America)

Much opining goes on about the way the game of golf is changing because of technology. But is it really the game of golf or is it just the games of the pros on the PGA Tour? Whether we're talking golf balls, drivers, shafts or the grooves in irons and wedges, the issues mostly affect the best in the game. The USGA has done years of research on the effect U grooves on the faces of irons and wedges have on the spin of the ball. That research has primarily been focused on PGA Tour players, with a study on amateurs (probably also men) thrown in for good measure.

The USGA submitted a lengthy report to the major golf club manufacturers showing the research findings and indicating that a proposal for a rule change is likely not far behind. Those manufacturers are probably licking their chops. Maybe they even financed the studies for the USGA, which is a "non-profit" organization.

Who really cares if PGA Tour players hit the green 49 percent of the time from 100-200 yards out from light rough? (1) Scoring is fun to watch. Sure, it might be more interesting if they had to strategize more and actually worry about hitting fairways, but maybe the problem isn't in the clubs, it's the light rough. Why put all this time and effort into a study of the grooves when a simpler answer would be for the PGA to mandate rough lengths for certain grasses at tournament locations? I'll tell you why. Golf club manufacturers want to make more money. And guess what? It's not the Tour pros that pay for golf clubs, it's the rest of us ordinary everyday amateurs.

To summarize this potential rule change (don't kid yourself, there's a plan and timeline to make it happen), U grooves in irons and wedges will be outlawed in favor of a modified V groove because U grooves allow the best players in the world to spin and control the ball better from a particular type of lie on a golf course. Again - so what?

We are the only ones who are going to suffer the consequences when this idiotic rule goes into effect. The pros won't care because all their competitors will be facing the same circumstances - and they get their clubs for free. Golf course architects won't care because they're too busy lengthening courses to accommodate the equipment that really has an impact. Groundskeepers won't care because they're used to adjusting the grass length and fairway width when pros come to town. Tournament hosts and sponsors won't care because they (presumably) will be putting on a better show when the pros change their strategies. Meanwhile, everyday golf addicts are left holding the bag… the bag full of non-conforming clubs we now have to replace at our own expense. I can almost hear the manufacturers giggling.

My golf clubs have U grooves. I spent my hard-earned, middle-class, full-retail-price dollars on those Taylor Made irons and now they might be ruled non-conforming?

Do your irons have U grooves? They probably do, but it's not hard to tell if you just look at them. Do you belong to a golf club or play in events that require valid USGA or regional representative handicaps? I do. And I won't be able to do those things with my perfectly good set of irons and wedges if the USGA and club manufacturers have their way. Why do we need a USGA rule that will affect us all if the real target is the performance of the elite on Tour? If they don't want to have two sets of rules, couldn't they set their sights elsewhere and do something that has less impact on the average golfer?

Let them change the golf ball like so many people have proposed. Golf balls are consumables. Even with my secret weapon U groove irons, I can shank, power fade or duck hook any ball into Never Never Land from any lie 20 or 200 yards away. No matter what rules they change about golf balls, we're going to continue to lose them and buy new ones as long as we play golf. I can't afford to get attached to a Pro-V1, but I am attached to my irons.

The USGA is trying to claim the rule change wouldn't affect us because we only hit the green 13.1 percent of the time from shots 100-200 yards out from light rough. So are they turning a blind eye to the impact it would have on our bank accounts? Maybe it's just too dark to see much of anything from the depths of the club manufacturers' pockets.

A woman relatively new to golf and known for her wit and dedication to her rapidly improving game, Kristen "Golf Chick" Williams has won fans for her blog and WorldGolf.com golf course reviews. She pens her golf articles from her home in Southern California.

Any opinions expressed above are those of the writer and do not necessarily represent the views of the management.

Reader Comments / Reviews Leave a comment
  • know your facts

    pro1984 wrote on: Aug 4, 2009

    I think you should get your facts right , amateurs only have to change to v grooves in 2024 , if you intend to still be playing those same taylormade irons , good luck


  • U grooves

    golfer_guy wrote on: Aug 2, 2009

    I think the USGA are a bunch of old men who have nothing better to do with their time than tinker around with things. I mean have you seen David Faye, the guy is a bag of dust with teeth. They are ruining golf as much as protecting it, look a the way they set up the Us Open to the point where it is (goofy golf). And I suppose these grooves will be legal until another Tiger or Phil come along spinning spinning wedges out of the rough, what then, no grooves?


  • U-Grooves

    Ron The Hacker wrote on: Mar 1, 2007

    Golf Chick, I’m afraid I’m going to have to disagree with you this time. You can check out the USGA website (http://usga.org) for specifics of their proposal, but in a nutshell the USGA is proposing to restrict specs on the groves of golf clubs manufactured after 1 Jan 2010. The key for most of us is the fact that they’re going to enforce the change in competitions only involving ‘highly skilled players’. I would take that to mean competitions such as the U.S. Amateur for which a golfer must have a handicap of 2.4 or lower to even enter. For the rest of us ‘hacker’s (read that as ‘not highly skilled’), ‘for golf clubs already in use and/or manufactured prior to the proposed rule implementation date, ... the USGA proposes to allow their use for a lengthy period of time (at least 10 years)’. So that would put us out to beyond 2020 before we ‘not so skilled players’ have to really worry about spending the big bucks to buy our next set of clubs.
    Now I’m just a golfing hacker (check out my blog at http://golfinghacker.com), but I for one endorse the change. Why, you ask? I guess I’m just a purist at heart. Hardly a pro tournament goes by without a measured long drive of over 400 yards. The pros are hitting the golf ball further than ever with decreasing accuracy in terms of fairways hit. In other words, they’re letting it all hang out knowing that even if they miss the fairway, they can get bite on the ball with their “U” grooves and get it ‘up and down’ from the rough (unless the rough is U.S. Open length). Now if a player can hit a 300+ yard drive down the middle, more power to him (or her). But if that same drive strays off the fairway and into the rough, there should be some penalty. And at this point, if you’re still asking why I would endorse the proposed change, you need to drag out your Merriam-Webster and look up the meaning of ‘purist’.
    The Hacker


      • RE: U-Grooves

        USNavyChiefRet wrote on: Jul 13, 2009

        Yep! Purist? You can't even spell "groves" (grooves). What, do you hit it down the middle of a orange grove? It's just another way that Europe (the R&A) can come over here and impose their "purist" restrictions on America! That's like having the technology to do word processing using a computer & "MS Word" or "Word Perfect" but you have this ole manual typewriter so you will use it instead because your a "purist". Come on, the golf club manufacturers are already counting the money their going to make on this deal! Get real!


  • U-grooves

    TartanGolfGrips DotCom wrote on: Feb 27, 2007

    I'm with ya 100% Kristin - just give the lawnmowers a couple of weeks off leading up to the PGA Tournaments...
    The crux of the issue that I've been reading is the scoring propensity from the rough using the U-grooves...
    Let it grow so it's up over your ankles, and then lets see who can spin the ball on the green too much...