wedgegrass1The USGA’s new ruling regarding the change in grooves is probably one of the most controversial decisions in golf for quite some time. This new regulation requires the volume and the sharpness of the grooves in any club with a loft equal to or greater than 25 degrees to conform with the new specifications. If you aren’t familiar with changes, here is a quick overview of what to expect in pictorial form, brought to your by the USGA.

The reasoning behind such a bold move is, according to USGA Senior Technical Director Dick Rugge, “… research shows that the rough has become less of a challenge for the highly skilled professional and that driving accuracy is now less of a key factor for success…”.  They believe restricting the edges and the depth/volume of the groove will, “increase the challenge at the Tour level, while having a very small effect on the play of most golfers.” The road to hell is paved with good intentions…

No more flopshot magic?

No more flopshot magic?

Now that we have a little history and spiffy visualizations to understand the effect and reasoning behind the change, we get to tear their arguments apart.  As an amateur golfer, and avid fan, I don’t like this one bit and the reprocussions will not just be felt on the course by the ‘skilled players’ it is targeted towards, but also for the people who enjoy watching golf as much as I do.  One of the most exciting parts of watching any tournment is being able to see my any of the most skilled players in the world knock an approach shot straight at a pin. This might be my own idealization of professional golfers, but being able to manipulate the ball so well and so perfectly, shot after shot is one of the things that keeps me coming back to watch more golf each season.

The most drastic change with the new groove regulation will most likely involve the short game. I was torn on whether to rank the beauty of the short game above amazing approach shots, so I’m going to bitch out and say that iron play and approach shots are probably the most exciting part of golf.  The ability of people like Phil Mickleson to manipulate the ball so well from any position around the green is an absolute thing of beauty and I fear for the lack of breath-taking shots from Phil in the coming seasons when the change finally takes place.  It’s hard to justify such a drastic change when people have come to expect such amazing short game from professional golfers as of late.

Not to draw this out much longer than it already is, but expect quite a few more articles on this change throughout the season as such a dramatic change to the way golf is played will no doubt have an effect on not just the ‘skilled players’ but how the game is viewed by fans and played as amateurs. You can never alienate your fanbase without big reprocussions and there’s a chance these regulations will take some toll until widespread changes are instituted.  This is necessary evil, but one would think there’d be better things to regulate.