Grooves: Common Questions & Answers

By USGA
January 1, 2014

Implementation of 2010 Groove Rules for Expert Amateur Players 

Why did the USGA introduce the revised groove rules in 2008?

 

In establishing the revised technical specifications for golf club grooves, the USGA was fulfilling one of our key responsibilities – to protect the fundamental challenge of the game and ensure that skill, not an overreliance on technology, is the prime determinant of success in the game. The research conducted jointly by the USGA and The R&A in 2007-08 showed then that the rough had become less of a challenge for expert players, and that driving accuracy was less of a key factor for success. The technical specifications were designed to restore the challenge of playing shots to the green from the rough by limiting the performance on those shots, therefore making sure that driving accuracy remained a factor of success in the game for expert players.

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

Since January 1, 2010, the groove rules effective from January 1, 2010 have been 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 for these three championships. As previously announced, the Condition of Competition will become effective at ALL of the USGA’s national championships and team competitions in 2014.

The full text of the Condition of Competition appears at the end of this document.

What clubs are impacted by the groove rules? Do they apply to wedges only?

The rules apply to more than just wedges. In addition to the rules that existed prior to 2010, the revised rules apply to all new models of clubs manufactured on or after January 1, 2010, except drivers and putters. Additionally, the specifications apply to all models of clubs, regardless of vintage, when the Condition of Competition has been adopted. Among other things, the rules reduce the maximum volume of the grooves on irons, wedges, hybrids and fairway woods. The rules also place a limitation on the sharpness of groove edges on irons, wedges, hybrids and fairway woods with lofts of 25 degrees or higher.

I purchased my golf clubs after January 1, 2010. Can I assume that my clubs conform to the Condition of Competition?

Golf clubs manufactured on or after January 1, 2010 are required to conform to the groove rules effective from January 1, 2010. While it is expected that such clubs meet the groove rules, it is the player’s responsibility, prior to play, to ensure that his or her clubs meet the rules. If the player fails to verify conformance, he or she risks incurring a penalty under Rule 4-1 if a club is found to be nonconforming.

How do I determine whether my clubs conform to the Condition of Competition and are permissible for play?

A player in doubt as to whether his clubs conform to the condition may visit the Informational Club Database. The database currently lists models of clubs that were available prior to January 1, 2010 which have been tested for conformance to the rules and indicates their conformance status. By March 14, 2014, the database will be expanded to also include new models of clubs. The list is available at the following link:

 http://www.usga.org/InfoClubsDB/intro.html

For models of clubs not found on the list, the player should contact USGA Equipment Standards for further information at (908) 234-2300 or refer to the following link:

http://www.usga.org/equipment/testing/InviteForOpenClubTesting/

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 or sectional qualifying event for a USGA championship in 2014?

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 contact the USGA official in charge of the qualifying event as soon as possible. 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 2010 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 2010 Rules of Golf), the club has not been altered, and there are no other extenuating circumstances or other evidence of nonconformance, 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.

Will the Ping Eye2 irons be permitted at the elite amateur level?

The status of these clubs is noted on Decision 4-1/1 of the Rules of Golf. Players may also reference the Informational Club Database on www.usga.org.

The exception listed in the decision does not apply to the U.S. Open, U.S. Women’s Open and U.S. Senior Open as well as their respective qualifying stages.

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 a USGA championship?

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 possible, 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 Informational Club Database. 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 nonconformance, 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.

I compete in local, state and regional amateur competitions. Is the Condition of Competition in effect for those competitions, too?

Each competition committee sets its own conditions of competition. Players competing in local, state and regional amateur competitions should review the competition’s conditions and/or contact the specific committee to determine whether the groove condition will be in effect for any of its competitions (i.e., local, state and regional organizations).

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. (Spin Generation I pdf)

January 2007: The USGA publishes second major research report on groove performance/characteristics. (Spin Generation II pdf)

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, including both qualifying and the championship proper at the U.S. Open, U.S. Women’s Open and U.S. Senior Open.

Manufacturers were allowed to produce existing clubs and exhaust inventory until the end of 2010.

2014: The USGA and The R&A adopt the Condition of Competition for their amateur championships.

           

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 is two holes.
Stroke play – Two strokes for each hole at which any breach occurred; maximum penalty per round is four strokes.
Match play or stroke play – If a breach is discovered between the play of two holes, it is deemed to have been discovered during play of the next hole, and the penalty must be applied accordingly.

*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.

Exception: Ping Eye2 irons manufactured before March 31, 1990 with a groove spacing to groove width ratio of 2.3 to 1 are permitted for play under the Rules of Golf, even in certain competitions when the Condition Requiring Clubs Conforming with Groove and Punch Mark Specifications Effective January 1, 2010 is in effect. It is the player's responsibility to refer to the condition of competition posted for the specific competition in which the player is playing to ensure compliance with the above exception and to provide proof of the date on which the club was manufactured. If the player cannot provide such proof, the club must conform with specifications described in Appendix II, 5c(i)." (Revised)

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