The R&A - Working for Golf

All About Grooves

On 1 January 2010, there were revisions to golf's equipment Rules designed to enhance the benefits of accuracy by making playing from the rough a more challenging prospect. The new Rules, which relate to club face grooves, were the culmination of an extensive collaborative research project between The R&A and the United States Golf Association. This research showed that certain groove configurations can allow players to generate as much spin from the rough as is available from the fairway, resulting in a reduction in the value of accuracy.

Details of Rule Change

The new Rule limiting groove volume applies to all clubs (excluding drivers and putters). The limit on groove edge sharpness applies to clubs with lofts greater than or equal to 25 degrees (generally a standard 5-iron and above).

The Rules apply to all new models of clubs manufactured after 1 January 2010. Models manufactured prior to this date, which meet the pre-2010 regulations, will continue to be regarded as conforming under the Rules of Golf until at least 2024.

The new Rules were introduced as a Condition of Competition at top professional level from 1 January 2010 and at top amateur level and in other professional events from 1 January 2014.

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Are my Clubs 2010 Compliant?

The Club Groove Search function is to assist golfers and Rules Officials in determining the status of clubs, when evaluated against both the 2009 Rules of Golf and the new Rules which came into effect on 1 January 2010.

Equipment Search

Interpreting Results

The search result provides the club’s 2009 conformance status (YES or NO), as well as an indication of whether the grooves meet the new 2010 specifications and, as such, may be used in competitions where the Groove and Punch Mark Condition is in effect (YES, NO or ATR).

ATR stands for “Additional Testing Required”. An individual club or set of clubs with a 2010 status of ATR indicates that either the test results throughout the set produced inconsistent results or the manufacturer has specifically requested that the club or set is given ATR status due to product design and/or manufacturing variability. Additional testing is recommended on any club with an ATR status in order for it to be used in competitions where the Groove and Punch Mark Condition is in use as it is possible that some individual clubs will meet the specifications but others will not.

Any club with a NO status is presumed not to meet the new 2010 groove specifications. Unless a player has had his individual set of clubs or club tested and they were found to meet the 2010 specifications, it is recommended that clubs with this status should not be carried when the Groove and Punch Mark Condition is in effect.

Any club with a YES status is presumed to meet the 2010 groove specifications and can be used in competitions where the Groove and Punch Mark Condition is in effect. However, if a player has had his individual set of clubs or club tested and they were found not to meet the 2010 requirements, they must not be carried – regardless of the information shown in the database.

Research into Spin Generation

The Statement of Principles issued jointly by The R&A and the USGA in May 2002 clearly explains that it is the intent of the equipment Rules to prevent an over-reliance on technological advances rather than skill and to ensure that skill is the dominant element in determining success throughout the game. The new groove Rules were arrived at with due regard to these important principles and the results of extensive research into the effect of club face markings on spin generation for balls hit from the rough.  Club face markings were observed to significantly increase spin from the rough compared to previous eras when there was a greater premium on driving accuracy.

Find out more about the work carried out by downloading the full research reports.

Do these changes apply to me?

A summary of this phased introduction – and how it affects each category of golfer – is included below:

Date Change Effecting...
1 Jan 2010
New specifications introduced on club face markings. All new models of clubs launched after 1 January 2010. Existing models of clubs will continue to conform to the Rules of Golf.
1 Jan 2010
Condition of Competition will be available to Committees requiring players to use clubs with markings which conform to the new specifications. Strongly recommended that this Condition should be introduced only on the major Professional Tours.

All other golfers, playing in competitions where this condition has not been introduced, can and should be permitted to continue to use old model clubs which do not satisfy the new specifications.
1 Jan 2014
Condition of Competition will continue to be available to Committees.
Strongly recommended that this Condition should be extended only to lower level Professional events and elite level amateur events.

Club level golfers can and should be permitted to continue to use old model clubs, which do not satisfy the new specifications.
1 Jan 2024
Earliest date that the Rules will be applied to clubs manufactured prior to 2010. This date will be reviewed in 2020 and may be extended. All players, all abilities, all forms of play.