USGA groove rules: The jury is still out
31 Jul 2011
by Benjamin Larsen of amateurgolf.com
It may not be as big as the impact forced upon golf when Tiger Woods first hit the scene, but the discussions and opinions regarding the USGA's new groove rules have certainly put a spark into the game.
The unfortunate reality for the USGA --- and moreover, the many elite amateur and professional players that need to adhere --- is that few people embrace the new rules.
There seems to be varying factions in the golf world when it comes to the USGA's implementation of 'V-grooves' over the 'U-grooved' and supposedly easier irons manufactured prior to 2010. There are those that don't see the need for the change and consider it a nuisance. Others, including touring professionals, simply don't see an impact.
A poll of amateurgolf.com Members backs up this notion. And for amateur golfers still paying for their own clubs and upgrades, the task and financial burden of conforming certainly seems to be a sticking point.
"What's the point?," asked Member Tony Caiazzo. "The tour-caliber pro still hits it a mile and can stop it on a dime. The only ones that really have been hurt are the low handicap/scratch competitive amateur.
"We needed to purchase wedges for the (USGA) qualifiers while the tour player didn't as they get them free."
The ultimate goal of the USGA is to make the game a bit tougher amidst all of the technological improvements over the past decade. The former u-grooved irons and wedges allowed players to put massive spin on the ball whether they were in the fairway or not.
The hope was that the new v-grooved irons --- which limit the spin when hitting out of the rough --- would put more of a premium on driving accuracy.
Good intentions on the USGA's part? Perhaps. But the results haven't been as persuasive.
A June Golf Digest article by E. Michael Johnson noted that driving accuracy, as of that point in the PGA Tour season, was as low as it had been in a decade. This year's accuracy number is nearly six percent lower than it was last year.
The driving accuracy of winners has actually improved over last season, so it's not all discouraging news for the USGA. That said, the court of public opinion is still wondering why the change was made in the first place.
"I think this shows the disconnect between USGA and it members," said Cyrus Whitney. "Usually, big changes are made when the vast majority of the members are asking.
"In this case, only a very small percent of people were looking for the change."
Of course, it's not all bad news for the USGA. There are some who see the need for the change.
Ed Donlin thinks the change came at the perfect time.
"Hitting fairways used to be important," Donlin said. "With the old u-grooves, you could just bomb it as far as you can and use a wedge with the wide grooves and not have to worry about a flyer."
Joey Schalk feels the same way.
"I think it is a good thing because the new grooves will keep some pros from having the mind frame of just getting up on the tee to grip it and rip it," he said.
Just over 17 months into the new specifications for Tour players and those attempting to qualify for USGA events, the results are inconclusive. But it's clear that many are still skeptical that this was the change that needed to be made.
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