Oakmont, Pa. – Business has been slow at the USGA’s groove-testing station, located in a small building adjacent to the practice area at Oakmont Country Club, and that is a good thing for all involved.
John Spitzer, USGA assistant technical director for Equipment Standards, had seen just two equipment manufacturer representatives and three players by late Tuesday afternoon. All three players’ clubs were on the conforming list, and the representatives wanted to have hybrid clubs checked before offering them to players for possible inclusion in their bags for this week’s U.S. Women’s Open. Neither club had been submitted previously for testing, but both passed muster.
“We have been out on the tours for a long time [testing clubs],” said Spitzer. “We started toward the end of last summer on the PGA Tour, at the Barclays Championship at Liberty National. During the fall and winter we were at a ton of events on the PGA, LPGA, Champions, Nationwide and Futures tours, and we have checked several thousand clubs.”
Clubs need to conform to the new groove rules instituted by the USGA and The R&A in January and adopted by all the major professional tours. Entrants in all three USGA’s Open championships (U.S. Open, Women’s Open and Senior Open) received information early and often in the application and qualifying process about the new rules. Only one player, who competed and had qualified for the Women’s Open this past May, has been disqualified for using a non-conforming club.
“The player had some wedges that conformed to the 2010 standards, and some older wedges that did not,” said Spitzer. “Unfortunately, she got them mixed up and used the non-conforming ones.”
Since April, when the USGA opened its testing lab at its Far Hills, N.J., headquarters, roughly two dozen sets of clubs have been submitted for testing. The USGA maintains an informational club database on its website that lists clubs that have been found to conform, others that do not, and still others that fall into the category of “additional testing required.”
Veteran LPGA Tour player Heather Young brought three wedges in for testing on Tuesday. She had her clubs tested last fall at the LPGA Tour Championship, and Spitzer had those results on record. However, she had recently started working with a new set of three wedges and wanted to double-check their conformance. Spitzer applied a casting material to the clubface for testing, but before he even measured the clubs’ grooves, he OK’d them – their serial numbers were on the conforming list, and Young was cleared to use the clubs.
Ron Driscoll is the USGA’s copy editor. E-mail him with comments or questions at firstname.lastname@example.org.