Most of you have probably heard about the new rules change on grooves. If you hadn’t heard, now you have.
Now the question isn’t whether or not you are aware of the change, it’s this: Do you have any idea how the rules change affects you?
The goal of this post is not to explain every detail of the new rules. This post is simply meant to help you understand the impact the new rules have on your golf game. Before we go any further, here is a comment on the purpose of the rules change from Doug Rikkers, GolfTEC National Director of Instruction:
“This rules change is really directed at Tour players. The new groove design will make it harder to spin the ball out of the rough, thereby increasing the penalty for missing the fairway and placing a higher premium on accuracy off the tee.”
How does the rules change affect you?
Unless you’re a Tour Player, the truth is, the rules change really doesn’t have much of an immediate impact on you. So take deep breath. You can stop having nightmares about losing your ability on approach shots to back-it-up. The USGA isn’t takin’ away your bite.
The rules change affects three groups differently:
- Tour Pros — beginning January 1, 2010, clubs used in competition must comply to new rules
- Top-level Amateurs — beginning January 1, 2014, clubs used in all USGA amateur championships must comply
- The Rest of Us — clubs used in “other competitions” and to establish and maintain USGA Handicap Index must comply by 2024 (that requirement could possibly be eliminated all together)
In short, Tour Pros have until 2010, amateurs competing in USGA amateur championships have until 2014 and the rest of us have…well, plenty of time.
The “good” wedges won’t last forever
But that’s not all. The biggest potential impact the groove rules change has on the average golfer is in regards to purchasing clubs. Beginning January 1, 2010, club manufacturers are required to comply to the new groove rules. This means all clubs designed and manufactured after that date have to be compliant. However, clubs manufactured before January 1, 2010 can still be assembled and distributed to retailers for one year — until January 1, 2011.
This is where it gets a little fuzzy. To get some clarification, we went to Dick Rugge, Senior Technical Director of the USGA. One of the first things Rugge noted in an email was this:
“…we have made changes in response to the economic difficulties facing the golf equipment industry.”
Rugge went on to make three points of clarification:
- “Clubs intended to meet 2009 rules, but not 2010 groove rules, that have been submitted to the USGA for conformance ruling prior to the end of 2009, and are in production prior to the end of 2009, can continue to be manufactured through 2010.”
- “Such clubs need to be shipped by the manufacturers to retail sources or direct to consumers by the end of 2010.”
- “There is no time limit on sales by retailers.”
Simply stated, the USGA is allowing manufacturers to continue to produce 2009 clubs through the end of 2010. The key distinction is that those clubs must have been designed and submitted for USGA approval before 2010, and production must have started before before 2010.
From 2010 on, if you want to play the grooves that really bite, you’ll have to do one of three things:
- Stock up on a lifetime supply of wedges between now and 2010
- Buy 2009 or earlier-model wedges between 2010 and 2011
- After 2011, find a retailer still carrying the 2009 wedges that will no longer be in production
One word on trying to purchase pre-2010 wedges after January 1, 2010. If a basic supply and demand model applies, there could be a lot of golfers searching for wedges with the “good” grooves (demand), and a decreasing number of those wedges available (supply).
What does this mean? Well, we don’t suggest panicking and rushing to the nearest store to clear out their entire supply of wedges, but planning ahead never hurt anybody. A word of advice from Rikkers:
“If you’re thinking about getting a new set (or just a couple wedges) and don’t want to give up any spin, your best bet is to buy them before the deadline. “
While the deadline Rikkers notes is generally thought to be January 1, 2010, in reality January 1, 2011 is the true deadline. Why? As stated earlier, manufacturers can continue to produce and distribute 2009 wedge models until January 1, 2011. After that date, manufacturers will no longer be able to assemble, produce, or distribute wedges that fail to comply to the new rules.
As Rugge pointed out, there will be no limits on selling, only on manufacturing. But once 2011 passes, the supply of 2009 wedges will begin to dry up.
- Unless you’re a Tour Pro, you have until either 2014 or 2024 before the new groove rules apply to you
- After January 1, 2010, all newly designed and manufactured clubs must comply to the new rules
- All club models that exist BEFORE January 1, 2010 can be manufactured and distributed until January 1, 2011
- There are no limits on selling
For most golfers, Rikkers’ summary applies, “If you’re primarily a recreational golfer you can use your current clubs until at least 2024.” Basically, you don’t have much to worry about until then, outside of possibly buying a few extra wedges before the supply dries up.
So until then, keep those shots biting, checking and backing up.
Let us know what you think about the rules change. Comments and questions are welcome.
Want to know more?
If you still want more details on the rules, check out this great Q&A article (used as a reference for this post) on the USGA website. And if you want to know even more, here’s a link to a USGA page containing notices and announcements regarding the rules change. On that page is an attachment of the official Notice to Manufacturers.