Hole By Hole
It's about golf.
January 15, 2010
Both magazines focused their newest issues on the same topic, and it has nothing to do with the off-course troubles of a certain very famous golfer. Instead, they are highlighting the latest and greatest in equipment offerings from the folks at Titleist, Ping, Callaway, Nike, and the other club manufacturers.
This wintertime focus on clubs serves several purposes, besides deflecting interest from more salacious topics.
First, the annual PGA merchandise show is held in Florida at the end of January. The magazines give the pros and the public an early lead on the stuff that will be showcased at the Orlando convention center.
Second, for most of the country, and especially this year, itís really cold outside. With playing golf not an option right now for most golfers, why not keep their interest piqued with a glimpse at all the newest models?
This yearís selections, at least for the clubs designed for the better players, will be taking into account the recent change in equipment rules adopted last year by the USGA and the Royal and Ancient.
It has to do with the grooves on the middle and short ironsóthose ranging from the five-iron to the lob wedges.
According to the USGA, expert golfers can recover very nicely from shots out of the rough, if the grooves running across the face of these irons have a certain edge sharpness, and if the width of the grooves is comparatively larger than what was commonly designed many years ago. Itís not so much whether the grooves are V-shaped or U-shaped. Club makers can still use the currently popular U-shape grooving, but they must still make the new grooves conform to cross sectional and spacing requirements, as well as new edge radius rules.
As the USGA said in a press statement last fall, these changes should "restore the challenge of shots played from the rough to the green. This should result in an increase in the importance of driving accuracy."
The new rules will be applied with a relatively slow playout, at least from a tournament perspective. The 9,000 or so golfers who attempt to compete in the U.S. Open, U.S. Womenís Open, and U.S. Senior Open wonít have to use the new conforming clubs in the local or first stage of the 2010 championships. However, theyíll have to have the new grooves on the clubs they use in the sectional rounds, as well as the finals.
Itís expected that the rest of the USGAís championship series will have the new club requirements in place by 2014. The groove requirements will go into effect for all these clubs, regardless of whoís using them, by 2024.
The USGA hastens to point out that these new equipment specifications should not have any noticeable impact on the vast majority of golfers, for whom an Open Championship competition is never in their sights, except in front of a TV or while holding a spectatorís ticket.
First, research studies show that most golfers only reach the green in regulation from the rough a little more than one time out of ten. Second, most of the millions of golf balls that most amateurs use donít react to these groove differences. Finally, with the rule not going into full effect for all such irons until 2024, most golfers will have bought new clubs by then. The USGA assumes that the nationís players wonít complain about an equipment change that wonít cost them money they werenít already planning to spend.
This new rule also shows once again that there really is a significant difference between expert golfers and the rest of us. I donít believe we needed any more proof of that fact.
On the other hand, the new rules add something to watch for in this yearís television coverage of the pro tours.
Letís see how many times the pros will look just like us when hitting out of the gunk.
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© Frederick Schranck 1998-2010