You may have heard that the Powers That Be changed the grooves professionals can have on their irons and wedges starting Jan. 1. The rule change is designed to reduce the amount of spin on the ball, especially out of the rough. Think of it as a softening of the clubface’s teeth. According to the Powers That Be, if the clubface can’t grab the ball as much, players won’t be able to play bomb-and-gouge golf because they’ll get more flier lies from the rough. As if they wouldn’t hit more fairways if they could!
The reality is, it’s a backdoor attempt to make players use a softer, spinnier ball, thereby making the ball fly shorter and narrowing the gap between the power players and the non-power players. I believe it will end up with the opposite effect of its intent, because softer grooves will widen the gap between power players and everybody else.
Why? The high-swing-speed, high-spin, high-launch guys will be less affected because they can still make the ball spin sufficiently. But the lower-swing-speed, lower-launch and lower-spin players will have trouble creating enough spin with the new grooves to keep the ball up in the air.
This groove change was a knee-jerk reaction to distance gains that have mostly leveled off in the past six years, and it takes us into the dangerous territory of making the game more difficult for amateurs because we’re trying to reign in Phil or Tiger. That’s ridiculous. Yes, the groove change won’t take effect for amateurs for 14 years, but if the plan is to roll back technology so that 50- and 60-year-old players can’t hit the ball well enough to enjoy the game, then we’ve messed up. The game needs growth, which won’t happen by making it harder. Not so groovy, baby.