The USGA announced on Tuesday a change to the Rules of Golf that puts new restrictions on the volume and sharpness of golf club grooves.
The USGA’s new rule, which matched an announcement by the R&A, is intended to make playing from the rough tougher for highly skilled players, but not for the average golfer.
"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," USGA Senior Technical Director Dick Rugge said in a media release. "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 new rule restricts the sharpness, depth and width of grooves that can give better players more control and spin out of the rough.
"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)."
(Click on the USGA created image on the right for a graphic explanation.)
The rule will apply to clubs manufactured after January 1, 2010, and starting in 2010 the USGA will enforce the new regulations at the U.S. Open, U.S. Women’s Open and U.S. Senior
Open, as well as each of their qualifying events. After January 1, 2014, all USGA amateur championships will also follow the new regulations. It appears the major professional tours and other governing bodies have agreed to follow suit.
"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."
Clubs made before January 1, 2010, will be considered legal until 2024 and can be used to maintain an official USGA handicap.
“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 Jay Rains, USGA vice president and chairman of the USGA Equipment Standards Committee “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.”