You remember the 1987 R.E.M. song “It’s the End of the World As We Know It“? Well for today’s golfer, December 31, 2010, will be the end of the world as we know it in regards to wedges. What? Why? What are you talking about? I’m talking about the USGA decision to change the rule regarding the grooves on wedges. As of December 31, 2010, golf club manufacturers will no longer be able to produce wedges with large square grooves that most golfers have grown to love. The new grooves must be smaller and much shallower in comparison; about 30% smaller to be exact.
Why is this happening?
I suspect it is because the USGA feels that professional golfers are getting too good at getting good shots from out of the rough. The intent of the rule change is to place a premium on playing from the short-grass and making it harder to have precision, spin and control when hitting out of the rough. Their goal should be accomplished on the professional level as the majority of PGA professional golfers hit the fairway approximately 60-70% of the time, and with practice I am sure that percentage will go up from there. As for the rest of us, well that’s another story. In my game, I feel a little strange when I actually do get to play from the fairway. I am typically in the rough off the tee and tend to stay there most of the hole. The problem for golfers like me (there are more of you out there I know it) is that the smaller grooves reduce the contact surface with the ball (I will explain more on that in a sec) which in turn reduces spin performance and predictability from out of the rough. So since a Tour player is on the fairway the majority of the time and most average golfers like me are not, you can see this is a problem more so for me and you than it is for the PGA Tour.
How does the rule change really affect the game of golf?
For the 2010 PGA Tour season, all Tour players must already be playing wedges that conform to the new ruling. At the end of this year, all manufacturers must begin to produce only wedges that conform to the new ruling. By the year 2014, all USGA sanctioned amateur events will have to have the new ruling in place. And finally, by 2024, this rule change will affect all golfers everywhere; as any golfer who posts a score for handicap purposes will have to be using the new conforming wedges.
Fortunately (or unfortunately some would say), most golfers today will never be a PGA professional golfer (except maybe in our minds and our locker-room bragging), nor will the majority of us ever actually try to qualify for the US Open (although I thought about it once, then I remembered that I live in the rough), so this rule change will not affect the game of the average weekend warrior for another 14 years.
So if we have 14 years until the average golfer will be affected, why are we talking about it today? Well, in short, since manufacturers will no longer be able to produce wedges with current large grooves, you will no longer be able to buy wedges with the current large grooves. Therefore your golf game will be dramatically affected from here forward.
All this fuss about grooves, what does it really matter?
It matters because it greatly affects your game. With 70% or so of all golf shots played within 120 yards of the green, the wedges tend to be the most used clubs in your bag. And with a majority of those shots, at least for me, being played from the rough, it is important to have a good set of wedges. Wedges are typically used from the rough because a wedge has larger and deeper grooves to help clear debris from the contact point. In fact, how the grooves work is quite interesting. The grooves on a golf club are designed to channel moisture and debris away from the club face and improve friction on the golf ball (you can think of it in the same way that a tread on your car tire channels water for grip on the road). So as expected, the larger and deeper the groove on the wedge, the more debris that can be channeled away from the surface allowing more friction on contact. Friction on the golf ball is what gives more control, spin and predictability. So if the new grooves are going to be smaller, thus not clearing as much debris away from the contact surface, you can foresee the potential problems. With the new rule change going to smaller grooves and the fact that a lot of courses are starting to make the area around the greens longer and less manageable, most golfers will have a more difficult time setting themselves up for good putts.
So here is the bottom line; if you like using wedges with the large square zip grooves, then you have approximately six (6) months to stock up enough wedges to get you through the next 14 years. And with the average avid golfer buying a new wedge every couple of months, that means a lot of wedges. But don’t worry; wedges will still be around to buy next year, the new ones just won’t have the same technology they use today. So hurry and act now, ‘cause once they’re gone, they’re gone. Look to the right for some of our most popular large groove wedges still available.