New groove rules: One year on

Groove measurementJust under a year has passed since new groove Rules were made available as a Condition of Competition for the elite professional game, and this Condition is now applied on all of the major Tours. The majority of these organisations have their own testing equipment and are self-sufficient in their enforcement of the Condition.

“We are pleased at how smooth the introduction of the new Rules on the worldwide tours has been,” commented The R&A’s Director of Research and Testing, Dr Steve Otto. “Manufacturers, players and tournament officials have all been positive and pro-active in their approach to the new specifications, and this is reflected in the relatively incident-free transition we have seen over the last 12 months.”    

R&A field-testing began at the S4C Wales Ladies Championship of Europe in August 2009, in preparation for the new groove specifications which were introduced at the elite level on 1 January 2010. Since then, The R&A has tested the grooves of over 7000 clubs belonging to more than 1000 players at 38 events worldwide.

Complex measurements in the Test CentreCrucially, the Equipment Standards team were on hand at those events where the Condition was being introduced for the first time, including IFQ Australasia; the Abu Dhabi Golf Championship on the European Tour; the Allianz Open on the Challenge Tour; the Telkom PGA Pro-Am on the Sunshine Tour; the Lalla Meryem Cup on the Ladies European Tour; the Asian Tour International; the Token Cup on the Japan Golf Tour; and the Okinawa Ladies Open on the Japan Ladies PGA Tour.

In July, the team also tested at three successive Major Championships, namely The Open, The Senior Open and the Women’s British Open. But not all of the workload has been in the field. Since August 2009, over 4000 samples of individual irons and wedges have been submitted and tested for conformance to the new Rules at The R&A’s offices in St Andrews.

The revised Rules are designed to enhance the benefits of accuracy by making playing from the rough a more challenging prospect. The change was the culmination of an extensive collaborative research project between The R&A and the USGA, which showed that the old grooves were allowing players to generate as much spin from the rough as they were from the fairway. The new groove specifications significantly increase the spin differential between shots hit from the fairway and those struck from the rough, by limiting groove volume and groove edge sharpness.

A highly magnified, computer-generated image of a grooveThe Rule limiting groove volume applies to all clubs, excluding drivers and putters. The limit on groove edge sharpness applies to clubs with loft greater than or equal to 25 degrees; generally a standard five-iron and above.

It is intended that the new Rules will be introduced as a Condition of Competition at top amateur level and in other professional events from 1 January 2014. There will be no need for club golfers to change their clubs until 2024 at the earliest and, as they purchase new models, they will make the transition naturally. The status of clubs in production prior to 2010 can be found on The R&A’s informational database, available here.