USGA announces rule change on clubface grooves
05 Aug 2008

FAR HILLS, N.J. (Aug. 5, 2008)--The United States Golf Association announced revisions to the Rules of Golf, placing new restrictions on the cross sectional area and edge sharpness of golf club grooves.

The revisions are designed to restore the challenge of playing shots to the green from the rough by reducing backspin on those shots. The initial focus of the new rules will be competitions involving highly skilled professional golfers and will have little impact on the play of most golfers.

The rules control the cross sectional area of grooves on all clubs, with the exception of drivers and putters, and limit groove edge sharpness on clubs with lofts equal to or greater than 25 degrees (generally a standard 5-iron and above).

The rules apply to clubs manufactured after Jan. 1, 2010, the same year that the USGA will enforce the new regulations through a condition of competition for the U.S. Open, U.S. Women’s Open and U.S. Senior Open and each of their qualifying events. All USGA amateur championships will apply the new regulations through the condition of competition, after Jan. 1, 2014.

The PGA Tour, the European PGA Tour, the LPGA, the PGA of America and the International Federation of PGA Tours have all indicated their support for the new regulations on grooves. Each of these organizations, as well as the Augusta National Golf Club, have told the USGA and The R&A, the game’s governing bodies, that they intend to adopt the condition of competition, applying the rules for their competitions, beginning on January 1, 2010.

"Our research shows that the rough has become less of a challenge for the highly skilled professional and that driving accuracy is now less of a key factor for success," said USGA Senior Technical Director Dick Rugge. "We believe that these changes will increase the challenge of the game at the Tour level, while having a very small effect on the play of most golfers."

The research undertaken and published by the USGA and The R&A demonstrates that for shots from the rough with urethane-covered balls (the type of ball most used by highly skilled players), modern, sharp-edged U-grooves result in higher ball spin rates and steeper ball landing angles than the V-groove designs used predominantly in the past. The combination of a higher spin rate and steeper landing angle results in better control when hitting to the green. Shots from the rough become more similar to shots from the fairway, creating less challenge for shots from the rough.

"The scientific research on the effect of grooves on spin and the ability of highly skilled professional golfers to control shots from the rough was very compelling," said Jay Rains, USGA vice president and chairman of the USGA Equipment Standards Committee. "The USGA and The R&A took additional time to consider fully the potential ramifications for all levels of golfers. In particular, we took care to minimize the impact on amateurs who actively compete in club and local competitions, as well as other golfers who do not want to replace recently purchased clubs."

Clubs manufactured prior to Jan. 1, 2010 that conform to current regulations will continue to be considered conforming to the USGA Rules of Golf until at least 2024. This includes clubs purchased after that date from manufacturers’ existing model ranges. (According to the Darrell Survey of consumer golf equipment only two percent of irons in use are older than 15 years.) So long as these clubs continue to be conforming they may be used for establishment and maintenance of a USGA Handicap Index.

"Ultimately, we came to the conclusion that the path forward was to get the top-level professional tours under the new groove regulations as soon as possible and to phase in the next level of amateur competition four years later, in 2014," said Rains. "This means that clubs you own today will still be conforming for top-level amateur competition for another 5 1/2 years and, for other competitions, conforming until at least 2024, if not indefinitely."

The rules revision on grooves concludes a process of nearly three years of research and testing conducted jointly by the USGA and The R&A. Manufacturers and other interested parties were given an opportunity to review the proposed regulations and provide their comments to the USGA and The R&A, which resulted in meaningful modifications to the original proposal issued in February 2007.

Although currently conforming clubs with V-grooves will continue to conform under the new rules, the new rules do not mandate the use of a V-shape. The new regulations permit club designers to vary groove width, depth, spacing and shape to create clubs that conform to the new groove rules. In addition, all Ping EYE2 irons manufactured before March 31, 1990, will continue to be treated by the USGA as conforming to the Rules of Golf, and will be acceptable for all USGA competitions.

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