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Finchem: Too late to defang grooves rule

Posted on: June 30, 2009 1:00 pm
Edited on: June 30, 2009 4:10 pm

An interesting bit of intrigue emerged at noon today from Washington, D.C., where people who craft policy are often accused of doing very little of substance.

Presented with the option of voting on whether to push back a controversial new equipment revision set to take place on Jan. 1, the PGA Tour Policy Board instead elected to do nothing.

And by that, I mean they didn’t even vote on the issue.

As such, the decision on whether to proceed with the implementation of a new rule requiring new grooves that impart less spin on the ball was left to Commissioner Tim Finchem, who elected not to postpone the deadline. Finchem said “a couple” of equipment companies had asked for the rule change to be postponed. One is known to be Titleist.

“We are comfortable we can meet the challenges,” Finchem said in a teleconference. “I concluded that delaying at this time was not in our best interests.”

Exactly why the board decided to let Finchem make the call remains, for the moment, unclear. It will be interesting hearing the four players who have seats on the board explain what happened, but at minimum, it removed them from a potentially uncomfortable situation – the players have endorsement deals with manufacturers, which might have created a conflict of interest.

The commissioner is authorized to manage the rules and regs of competition, Finchem said, and the board elected to let him do exactly that. Critics had begin to sharpen knives while awaiting word as to whether the tour had capitulated to the whims of manufacturers, questioning who exactly runs the game these days – organizations like the USGA and R&A, which enacted the rule, or the equipment makers.

This apparently settles that issue. The tour will fall into line with the R&A and USGA, which wanted the rule enacted Jan. 1 all along.

“We are too late in the process,” Finchem said, noting that some manufactures have proceeded in good faith and already ramped up testing of irons with the new groove configuration. “They have taken steps to prepare for this schedule.”

Finchem said the tour would begin an all-out education push that he termed “a full-court press” for players who have questions about how the grooves will change the game. Many have procrastinated or indicated they will wait until the offseason to try the new clubs, which won’t impart as much spin in the ball out of the rough. In theory, that means bombers no longer would be able to hit massive tee balls with little regard to whether they landed in the fairway or not, placing a greater imperative on driving accuracy.

Amateurs have until 2024 before the rule takes effect in casual competition. Initially, it only applies to the highest levels of tournament play.

At USGA headquarters in New Jersey, the tour's decision was met with relief.

"We're pleased they reaffirmed the decision they had already made," said Dick Rugge, the USGA technical director. "We've offered to help them with education, communication, field testing, whatever they need. By Jan. 1, it should be old hat."

The USGA began floating the notion of rolling back ther grooves in March, 2005. The rule change has been formally in the pipeline since March, 2007, so if anybody is dragging their feet at this stage in the process, it's hard to muster up much sympathy. Some anufacturer produce new driver models every 12-18 months, replete with removable shafts and weights, but they complain about tweaking a club's groove pattern?

"We didn't come right out of the blue with this," Rugge said.

The Jan. 1 start date quickly picked up a ringing endorsement from the game's No. 1 player, Tiger Woods, who doubtlessly is ahead of most players in the adjustment phase. He currently only uses two non-compliant irons. His company, Nike, was in favor of the Jan. 1 start date.

"I think it's great," Woods said Tuesday. "We've known for over a couple years now what this decision was going to be, when it was going to come down, and we've had plenty of time to make our adjustment.

"All the companies have been testing and getting ready for this, and the guys will make the changes."

Woods already plays what he calls "the spinniest ball" on tour, so he might be ahead of the game in that regard as well, since he will be able to create more spin than most of his peers even with the new groove patterns of 2010. Other players are expected to consider moving to a softer-covered ball, which presumably won't travel as far. 




Category: Golf

Since: Nov 19, 2008
Posted on: July 13, 2009 9:59 am

Finchem: Too late to defang grooves rule

I'm thinking a large part of the reason the new rules won't apply to amateurs at the lower end of the competition ladder is the monetary issues that this entails. For amateurs who play 2-3 times a month, or year for that matter, to say that they now have to go out and buy a new set of irons and woods that conform to the new rules would not be financially feasible for many of them. They then have to make the choice of not playing or being "cheaters". With the 2025 date for ALL players amateurs at all levels will have the time to use the clubs they bought last year, for instance, and add the new "legal" clubs over a period of years. That way the game doesn't lose players, which it can ill afford to do at this time.

Since: Feb 4, 2009
Posted on: July 1, 2009 4:12 pm

Finchem: Too late to defang grooves rule

You know what, you are absolutely correct.  Most high to mid handicappers have no ability to spin the ball anyway, and are just happy to bogey once in a while let alone par a hole.  I would assume that they are worried that  a very good amateur could qualify for  lets say the US Open by using non approved equipment.  You would think though that anyone with that skill level would know better and use tour approved equipment in the first place.

Since: Jun 4, 2009
Posted on: July 1, 2009 9:47 am

Finchem: Too late to defang grooves rule

I'm curious as to why this rule will initially only apply to the pro and top amateur competitions.  Does anyone really think that the high handicappers put a lot of thought into how much spin they will get out of the rough?  These are the same guys that are buying the 18 ball bonus packs of Top Flites from WalMart.  If the PGA tour wants to adopt different rules that's one thing but the USGA should have one set of rules for all amateur golfers.

Since: Jan 19, 2009
Posted on: June 30, 2009 3:22 pm

Finchem: Too late to defang grooves rule

Tiger has said that he'd like to see the tour go back to persimmon woods and steel clubs that were used in the old days. I would say if the tour returned to those halcyon days, Tiger would be even more dominating because he seems to be one of the few modern players who can work the ball. He hits dreaws, fades, knock-downs, or balloon balls as the occasion requires. I'd really like his chances with the old equipment ( Remember a few years ago Mickleson said Tiger was playing with inferior equipment). If I remember correctly he was winning but not driving the ball as far as many of the other players until Nike upgraded their drivers.

Since: Feb 8, 2007
Posted on: June 30, 2009 3:17 pm

Finchem: Too late to defang grooves rule

Okay....but maux, you do realize that the rules of golf are for everyone.  These new groove restrictions are ment to hamper professional golfers, but your recreational golfers still have enough of a hard time with the best technology.  This is no where near an impact on a PGA pro, but your common golfer is going to be hampered even greater.  This game is supose to be tough, but enjoyable.  Playing caveman golf is not fun at all for alot of people.

If you really think this is going to change seeing Tiger, Phil, Bubba, etc... at the top while the Zac Johnson's of the world are going to flourish, it is not going to happen.  You know what will occur.  The rich will get richer and the marginal short game player will not even have a chance.  It will make it more likely to see the supream short club players win match after match.

Rules are suppose to apply to all and improvment in technology is not a bad thing.  It still requires those hack and swack types to hit from the rough.  Simply make the rough a bit tougher than the small 4 inches of plush green grass.  There is no need to hamper the entire community of golfers by limiting the design of clubs withing reason. 

Since: Nov 29, 2006
Posted on: June 30, 2009 2:48 pm


Hallelujah and Amen! Restrictions on clubface grooves are far too long overdue. The days of goon golf will soon be over. There's nothing more sickening for golfers, than to watch players who cannot muster two straight tee shots in a row, bang out 300+ yard drives with no regard as to where they land, because they know they can get up and down out of the rough. These are the guys that have been winning every week on tour, while skilled players that might not be as long are left in the dust. This rule change will increase the number of players that actually have a legitimate chance to win, and make it much more competitive. If neanderthal golfing fans want to see nothing but 340+ yrad drives, then they should watch Jason Zuback and the ReMax long drive tour, and leave golf to the rest of us. The only question that remains is how strict the enforcement will be. The top ten finishers in every tournament should be made to surrender their equipment on the eighteenth hole, whereby it can be examined for compliance. Any offenders should be fined, and suspended a minimum of next two events, including any majors. Without enforcement the rule change means nothing.  If nothing else, this rule change will give the Woods fans something else to whine about, and provide something else they can add to their huge bag of excuses.

Since: Jan 19, 2009
Posted on: June 30, 2009 2:38 pm

Finchem: Too late to defang grooves rule

Actually, Tiger was hitting the fairways. He lost the Open mainly because his chipping and putting were not as sharp as they usually are. He also seemed to have difficulty guaging the wind as many of his iron shots were either too long or too short. I think the golfing powers are trying to slow down all the advances in technology which have made many fine, old golf courses obsolete as they have become too short for the modern player. As someone who plays golf four days a week, I and my friends, have commented on the equipment we are using now and wish we had such equipment thirty or forty years ago. Leave the square grooves and titanium-faced woods to us codgers and have the professionals hit more traditional clubs.

Since: Feb 4, 2009
Posted on: June 30, 2009 1:48 pm

Finchem: Too late to defang grooves rule

This is completely idiotic.  The rule change in general is completely stupid and nonsensical.  If this rule is so important and if the accuracy is not, why then do the majority of winners on tour also have the highest percentage of fairways hit?  If short term memory serves correct, Tiger probably lost the US Open because he was not hitting fairways the first two and a half rounds?  Am I missing something here?  I don't buy for a minute either that a golfer will go th the British miss most fairways and contend because of the grooves and the spin as it currently stands.  Maybe this will make course designers stop making windmills and clown mouths on their courses, i.e fairways of 20 yard openings, lengthening courses by 500-600 yards?  All of the governing boards are way too reactionary with the changes.  They are taking the fun out of a lot of the tour events as it is.

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