The USGA’s new short iron and wedge-groove rule change is looming—on January 1, 2010, PGA Tour players will no longer be allowed to use high-spin box or U-grooves on these clubs; they will now be limited to the spin typically produced by the old-model V grooves. (All “non-elite” amateurs will still have a choice of playing grooves of either shape until 2024).
It’ll be interesting to see how the change affects the pros’ scoring when they have less ability to stop shots on the hard, fast greens typical of Tour venues. However, I’m more interested in how it will affect you. I first wrote about the face-groove ruling in the March 2009 issue of this magazine. I asked you to send me your thoughts on the change, as well as some thoughts about how you plan to handle the new rules in your own game. Below are the results of your responses:
84% “We’ll stick with our high-spin grooves, thank you” The majority of responders said they plan to play with their old box-groove or U-groove wedges next year. A significant number also plan to buy several extra wedges with box and U grooves before the manufacturers stop making them sometime in 2010, in order to stock-up for use until the year 2024 (at which time the issue will be revisited). The results are obvious: The majority of amateurs are interested in getting maximum backspin on their wedge shots to stop them quickly on the greens.
5% “Who cares?” Indifference exists—a small minority of responders reported that they’ve never worried about such details before, and they aren’t going to start worrying about them now.
11% “We’ll play what Tour players play” A small group said they plan to switch to the new lower-spin wedges next year. These players want to conform to whatever rules the USGA hands down, even if it means getting up to 50% less backspin with these new clubs on shots from the rough.
The USGA adopted the new rules because the organization places a higher premium on the pros landing their drives in the fairway (shots from the rough will be much more difficult to control with less spin). But it’s critical that you realize how dramatically the groove change will affect your own short game. If you decide to switch to the new clubs, practice with them before you try to stop important shots, because your ball will definitely roll out farther on the greens (even on shots from the fairway).