Monday, January 14, 2008

Is It Still the Grooves?

Remember last year when the USGA put out a memo saying that they had done research with the R&A and determined that regulation of golf club grooves back to V-grooves is pivotal in regulating technology - and not the golf ball?

Just in case you missed it, here's the proposed rule change:

Therefore, the USGA is proposing to change the rules governing grooves. The objective of this change is to limit the performance of grooves on shots from the rough to that of the traditional V-groove design. While currently conforming clubs with V-grooves would continue to conform under the proposed new rules, the changes do not mandate the use of a V-shape. Rather, they permit club designers to vary groove width, depth, spacing and shape to create clubs that conform to this proposed groove rule. Under this proposal, most of the current rules governing grooves would remain unchanged. There are two key additional groove specifications proposed for clubs other than driving clubs and putters:

  • The total cross-sectional area of a groove divided by the groove pitch (width plus separation) would be limited to 0.0025 square inches per inch.
  • Groove edge sharpness would be limited to an effective minimum radius of .010 inches.
All well and good - not really - but that's what is on the table and has been for nearly a year now. The USGA also went on to make a timetable for implementation.
It is proposed that these new groove rules become effective for all new clubs covered by this rule change that are manufactured after January 1, 2010. A Condition of Competition would be added to the USGA Rules of Golf to become effective January 1, 2009. This would allow a Committee to require the use of clubs that conform to the new groove rules for competition events conducted after January 1, 2009. Similar to other equipment-related Conditions of Competition, the USGA would recommend that the Condition apply only to competitions involving expert players.
Nevermind the bifurcation recommended in the last sentence and focus on the fact that this is expected to be put into the rules of golf by next January. Since then, though, there has been no formal announcement of the results of additional testing of spin rates or finding a method by which to test compliance with the rules or whether or not 10 years would be enough time to continue to allow 99.9% of players to use the newly nonconforming equipment.

We have heard a story coming out of the Ginn sur Mer Classic that USGA reps were looking to evaluate a potential compliance test for grooves. That's pretty much it.

Now we have this from Bomb and Gouge over at Golf Digest. They call out Jim Achenbach at Golfweek, which is just stupid, because they miss the real news behind their post. Here's the news:
Vernon told us the following: That the Equipment Standards Committee is getting together at the USGA annual meeting in Houston on Feb. 8. The R&A is having their meeting after that date and that no decision on grooves would be made until after the USGA and R&A met again to discuss to the matter. At the very earliest that is more than a month from now. OK, so maybe a month or so might qualify as "soon." But the column made it a definitive--that the decision had already been made to implement a rule of some sort. Again, when posed to Vernon, he said, "There has been no prognosis made on when a decision will be made and there has been no prognosis on what that decision may or may not be." In plainspeak, not only hasn't a decision on timing been made, but there hasn't been a decision at all.
What does this mean? Is there new research to indicate that the proposed rule change is a bad decision? Would testing compliance on Tour be next to impossible? Might they be considering doing something to the ball instead (and kick Titleist in the pants while they're down from the Callaway lawsuit)?

I think we need some answers. We may get them at the USGA Equipment Standards Meeting when Jim Vernon is confirmed as next USGA President. But, for right now, it sounds like the USGA is not too sure about what they have proposed.

No comments: