News From Terre Haute, Indiana

On & Off the Course

September 29, 2007

Groovy wedges: Possible rule changes keep spinning

TERRE HAUTE — The USGA and the Royal and Ancient, through their distinctions of being the ruling bodies for the game of golf, have also been saddled with the burden or responsibility to protect the integrity of the game. In recent history this has meant keeping up to speed on golf balls, equipment being produced and setting guidelines for conformity. The latest equipment rules change is in regards to the grooves on clubs and their depth and shape.

Over the last couple of years the USGA and the R&A; have studied how groove design has an affect on the performance and spin of a golf shot. The data compared spin rates for “v” and “u” shaped grooves in wedges. V-shaped grooves played from the fairway have about 11,000 rpm of spin, while 10,000 rpm of spin came from u-shaped grooves. The bigger difference comes from shots hit out of the rough. There, u-shaped grooves create almost 2,000 rpm more spin than v-shaped grooves.

The catalyst for this study goes back to 1989 in the British Open that year, when Mark Calcavecchia, using a set of Ping Eye2 irons, hit a 5-iron on the 18th hole from a flyer-lie in the rough, that spun and bit just as if it had been hit from the fairway. The USGA and PGA tour were already in a legal battle over square grooves, that shot just did a great job of illustrating their point. Eventually a compromise was reached; the square grooves were modified slightly, and they were deemed legal.

The PGA Tour and USGA didn’t have much in the way of statistics to give their legal suit any girth at the time, but now they do. Since then, the USGA has been paying attention and compiling statistics. Their statistics show that scoring in PGA tournaments has changed drastically over the years, due to players’ abilities to throw balls at pins from farther distances and with worse lies.

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