Q&A: Implementation Of New Groove Rules

By USGA
February 29, 2012

What is the plan for implementing the groove condition at USGA championships?   

The groove rules effective January 1, 2010, will be adopted as a condition of competition for the U.S. Open, U.S. Women’s Open and U.S. Senior Open, as well as all qualifying stages (including U.S. Open local qualifying) for these three championships. The condition will not be in effect at any of the USGA’s national championships and team competitions that are contested by amateurs only.

The full text of the condition of competition appears at the end of this document.

What guidance does the USGA offer to state and regional golf associations or clubs regarding adoption of the condition of competition for local or regional competitions? 

Although the condition of competition was included in the Rules of Golf as of January 1, 2010, for committees to adopt, the USGA has tiered implementation of the condition over a period of several years, beginning in 2010 with the U.S. Open, U.S. Women’s Open and U.S. Senior Open and their sectional (final-stage) qualifying events. In 2011 and beyond, the condition will be in effect at U.S. Open local (first-stage) qualifying. As originally announced, the USGA intends to adopt the condition for the championships and team events it conducts for amateur players no later than 2014. The USGA recommends that state and regional associations and clubs implement the condition in accordance with this general time frame. However, if the condition is implemented in 2014 or sooner, it is the recommendation of the USGA that this condition should be adopted only for competitions involving expert players.

What are the basics of the new groove regulations?    

Although the complete technical specifications of the new groove requirements are more detailed, the following statements summarize the key changes:

  • The volume of grooves is reduced.
  • Groove edge sharpness is reduced for clubs with lofts greater than or equal to 25 degrees.

 

A common misconception is that “V”-shaped grooves will be required under the new specifications and that “U”-shaped grooves will no longer be allowed. This is not the case. However, any “U”-shaped groove must conform to the new specifications for both cross-sectional area/spacing and edge radius.

The complete technical specifications can be found in the Test Protocols for Equipment section at www.usga.org.

How does a player determine if a club or set of clubs conforms to the groove specifications? 

The USGA has developed a database, called the Informational Club Database (Grooves), to assist players in determining if their clubs conform to the specifications, provided the club or set of clubs has not been altered and is “as manufactured.” The database, which is available on the Equipment page at www.usga.org, Conforming Club and Ball Lists, is a searchable database of irons, fairway woods with lofts of 25 degrees or higher, and hybrids with lofts of 25 degrees or higher, submitted to the USGA and/or The R&A prior to January 1, 2010, and evaluated to determine whether they meet the new groove rules. Please note that clubs submitted to the USGA and/or The R&A on or after January 1, 2010, are not included in the database. 

Additionally, entrants with models of clubs which were available prior to January 1, 2010, that are either not listed in the database or have an indication that testing is required in order to determine conformance to the groove condition may submit their clubs to the USGA through open club testing. Information regarding open club testing is available at http://www.usga.org/equipment/testing/InviteForOpenClubTesting/.

Alternatively, a player may contact the manufacturer of the clubs for information regarding conformance to the groove condition.

What is the protocol if a player needs to determine the conformity of a club, or the conformity of the club’s grooves is called into question during a local and/or sectional qualifying event for the U.S. Open, U.S. Women’s Open or U.S. Senior Open?  

Players are strongly encouraged to resolve any questions about club conformance prior to arriving on-site for any qualifying event.

As is the case with any question on the Rules of Golf or equipment, any player who is concerned about the conformity of grooves should find the USGA official in charge of the qualifying event as soon as practicable. The first step will be to determine the make and model of the club in question and find out whether the club has been included in the USGA Informational Club Database. If the club is listed in the database as meeting the 2010 groove rules or the player can provide proof of conformance to the 2012 Rules of Golf (e.g., a copy of a USGA or R&A decision letter, or a certificate provided by the USGA that the player’s specific club(s) have been tested and meet the 2012 Rules of Golf), the club has not been altered, and there are no other extenuating circumstances or other evidence of non-conformance, the club will be presumed to conform. If the club is not listed in the database as meeting the 2010 groove rules and has not been deemed conforming by the USGA or The R&A, and a determination cannot be made immediately, the player may choose to play with the club but risks disqualification if a determination is subsequently made that the club does not conform. Field testing will not be performed at local (first stage) or sectional (final stage) qualifying sites. 

If another player calls into question the conformity of the grooves on a player’s club(s), as with any question that arises during the competition, the USGA Rules Committee will take all pertinent facts into consideration in evaluating the situation, and the above procedure will apply if necessary. The decision of the USGA Rules Committee will be final.

What is the protocol if a player needs to determine the conformity of a club, or the conformity of the club’s grooves is called into question on-site at the U.S. Open, U.S. Women’s Open or U.S. Senior Open? 

Players are strongly encouraged to resolve any questions about club conformance prior to arriving on-site for any championship.

Once on-site, a player who is concerned about the conformity of grooves should alert a member of the USGA’s Rules Committee as soon as practicable, as is the case with any question on the Rules of Golf or equipment. The first step will be to determine the make and model of the club in question and whether the club has been included in the USGA database of clubs. If the club is listed in the database as meeting the 2010 Groove Rules, has not been altered, and there are no other extenuating circumstances or other evidence of non-conformance, the club will be presumed to conform.

If a club does not appear in the database or if the club has been altered, officials on-site will have the ability to conduct a field test to determine conformance. The field test that the USGA has developed will take less than 10 minutes for a club and no more than 30 minutes for a set of clubs.

If another player calls into question the conformity of the grooves on a player’s club(s), as with any question that arises during the competition, the USGA Rules Committee will take all pertinent facts into consideration in evaluating the situation, and the above procedure will apply if necessary. The decision of the USGA Rules Committee will be final.

What are the plans of other major golf organizations with respect to the new condition of competition? 

The PGA Tour (including the Champions and Nationwide Tours), European PGA Tour and other members of the International Federation of PGA Tours, as well as the LPGA, adopted this condition of competition at their tournaments beginning Jan. 1, 2010. The PGA of America and Augusta National Golf Club also adopted this condition of competition at the PGA Championship and Masters Tournament, respectively, in 2010.

What has been the timeline in making the change?   

Work on this subject has been ongoing at the USGA and The R&A for many years. The following is an outline of key dates in the process, as well as future milestones:

2005 - The USGA and The R&A announce they will be studying the effect of grooves.

August 2006 - The USGA publishes first of two major research reports on groove performance/characteristics.

January 2007 - The USGA publishes second major research report on groove performance/characteristics.

February 2007 - The USGA and The R&A propose limits on groove volume and edge radius, seeking feedback from manufacturers.

August 2008 - The USGA and The R&A adopt a revised proposal, incorporating manufacturer comments.

January 1, 2010 - All new clubs submitted to the USGA for approval must conform to new specifications. The PGA Tour, major championships and international federation tours adopted the rule as an “expert” condition of competition. Manufacturers were allowed to produce existing clubs and exhaust inventory until the end of 2010.

2014 - The USGA and The R&A have announced that they will implement the condition of competition at expert amateur competitions. Other golf organizations (for example, state and regional associations) are expected to follow the USGA and The R&A timeline for their expert competitions.

2024 - Earliest date the condition of competition will become a permanent equipment specification in the Rules of Golf.

4-1/1 Groove and Punch Mark Specifications Effective January 1, 2010 Including Condition of Competition 

"The player’s clubs must conform to the groove and punch mark specifications in the Rules of Golf that are effective from January 1, 2010.

*PENALTY FOR CARRYING, BUT NOT MAKING STROKE WITH, CLUB OR CLUBS IN BREACH OF CONDITION:
Match play - At the conclusion of the hole at which the breach is discovered, the state of the match is adjusted by deducting one hole for each hole at which a breach occurred; maximum deduction per round - Two holes.
Stroke play - Two strokes for each hole at which any breach occurred; maximum penalty per round - Four strokes.
Match or stroke play - In the event of a breach between the play of two holes, the penalty applies to the next hole.
Bogey and par competitions - See Note 1 to Rule 32-1a.
Stableford competitions - See Note 1 to Rule 32-1b.

*Any club or clubs carried in breach of this condition must be declared out of play by the player to his opponent in match play or his marker or a fellow competitor in stroke play immediately upon discovery that a breach has occurred. If the player fails to do so, he is disqualified.

PENALTY FOR MAKING STROKE WITH CLUB IN BREACH OF CONDITION:
Disqualification.
 

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