Last week the PGA Tour announced that it would not delay implementation of the new USGA rule requiring that as of Jan. 1, 2010, professional golfers must begin using clubs with narrower, softer-edged V-shaped grooves instead of wide, sharp U-shaped grooves. The rule will apply to high-level amateur events beginning on Jan. 1, 2014, and to all golfers as of Jan. 1, 2024.
All golf clubs had V-shaped grooves until 1985, when Ping introduced its Eye2 irons, which had square-shaped grooves. By creating spaces that channel away grass and moisture, the square grooves allowed players to put more backspin on the ball and therefore to better control distance and trajectory, and to stop or back up the ball on the green. The biggest difference was from the rough, where shots that had been unpredictable became more certain. As a result there was less of a penalty for missing the fairway off the tee; not coincidentally, driving-accuracy statistics dropped. Of even more concern to golf’s governing bodies was that the correlation between driving accuracy and success plummeted.
In an effort to reemphasize accuracy and overall skill, the USGA began testing various groove designs and in 2008 announced the new specs and the dates they would take effect. But in recent weeks some manufacturers asked the PGA Tour to move the deadline back one year because, they said, players had not had enough time to test the new equipment. (The USGA said it would follow the Tour’s lead.) The manufacturers argued that the groove change was more complex than simply getting players a new set of their old clubs. To account for the reduced spin, players might want to use a softer ball that spins more or employ clubs, particularly wedges, with more loft, and figuring out the best fit would mean spending a lot of time experimenting with a variety of combinations.
The PGA Tour policy board considered the issue at its June 29-30 meeting but decided to stick with the original deadline.