The USGA has received numerous inquiries from golfers wishing to know whether or not their clubs meet the new groove and punch mark specifications effective from Jan. 1, 2010. Many of these inquiries have come from golfers who plan to play in events where the condition of competition is in effect (the “Condition”), requiring that the player's clubs conform to those specifications (see Decision 4-1/1 in the Decisions on the Rules of Golf). As a result, the USGA and The R&A have created a reference resource called the Informational Club Database (the "Database").
How To Use The Informational Club Database
The purpose of the Database is to assist golfers in determining whether their irons, wedges, hybrids and fairway woods comply with the Condition.
The Database is a tool designed to facilitate a search of irons, wedges, 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, which have been evaluated to determine whether they meet the requirements of the Condition. While a player must still seek confirmation, it is expected that the vast majority of fairway woods and hybrids with lofts of less than 25 degrees will meet the requirements of the Condition and, as a result, the Database does not include lower lofted fairway woods and hybrids.
If it is indicated in the Database that a club does not comply with the Condition (i.e., a “No” in the “Meets 2010 Groove Rules Column”), it does not mean that the club does not conform to the Rules of Golf. Irons, hybrids and fairway woods available prior to Jan.1, 2010, which conform to the 2008-2009 Rules of Golf, are permitted for use until at least 2024, provided that the Condition is not in effect.
In listing the compliance status of clubs in the Database with respect to the Condition, the USGA has chosen to indicate whether a club complies or does not comply only if the test results were clear. In situations where the test results were mixed within a set submitted or the model did not consistently meet the Condition, the Database indicates that there was insufficient information available to determine compliance to the Condition (“ATR”). Any player who wishes to carry such clubs in competitions where the Condition is in effect should have their clubs tested individually to determine the status. It is important to remember that most clubs in production prior to Jan. 1, 2010 were designed to comply with a different set of groove and punch mark specifications. Clubs that conform to the rules that were in effect prior to Jan. 1, 2010 will continue to conform to the Rules of Golf until at least 2024, unless the Condition is in effect. If the Condition is in effect, the clubs must comply with the specifications effective from Jan. 1, 2010.
Unlike the List of Conforming Driver Heads, the Database is to be used for reference purposes only. The Database is not to be used in any manner stipulating that clubs must be included in the Database in order to be carried when the Condition is in effect.
To use the Database, simply select the club type (irons and wedges, hybrids, or fairway woods) and enter the appropriate search criteria in the manufacturer, product name and/or club markings fields. Once you have located the club model, expand at least one of the "View Markings" fields to ensure that the markings on your clubs match the markings displayed. There may be subtle differences in the markings differentiating two versions of the same model of a club (e.g., a pre-2010 and new version of the same model), or indicating two different models. For example, one version of a model may include a hosel marking indicating compliance with the Condition, while the original version may not include the hosel marking. Please note that these differences vary from manufacturer to manufacturer. As a result, if all markings of the clubhead shown in the Database do not match exactly the markings on the club in question, it may be a different model or version and you should consult the USGA for further assistance.
Reading The Search Result
1. The search result provides the club's or model’s conformance status with the groove and punch mark specifications in effect prior to Jan. 1, 2010 (Yes or No), as well as an indication of whether the club meets the Rules of Golf effective from Jan. 1, 2010 (Yes, No or ATR).
2. A 2010 status of "Yes" or "No" indicates that, based on the samples submitted, there was sufficient information available to provide a definitive answer regarding the status of the club or set of clubs relative to the Condition. A player with an iron model that lists only one or two clubs within the set as meeting the 2010 Groove Rules should not assume that the set conforms – as a result, further verification is necessary.
3. A 2010 status of ATR (Additional Testing Required) indicates that, based on the samples submitted, there was insufficient information available to provide a definitive answer regarding the status of the club or set of clubs relative to the Condition (e.g., some of the samples submitted within the set met the Condition, while other samples within the set did not).
4. An individual club or set of clubs with an ATR status indicates that the player assumes the risk that his or her clubs do not comply with the Condition if the player does not have his or her club or set of clubs tested for compliance prior to the competition and he or she chooses to carry the club or set of clubs when the Condition is in effect. Accordingly, it is highly recommended that the player has the individual club or set of clubs tested to ensure they are in compliance with the Condition.
5. Please note that because the edge radius requirements effective from Jan. 1, 2010 do not apply to clubs with lofts of less than 25 degrees, some searches may yield a result indicating that clubs with lofts less than 25 degrees within an iron set meet the Condition, while the higher lofted irons within a set do not. However, please note that a second major change to the groove and punch mark specifications (Area divided by Pitch), applies to all clubs, regardless of loft, other than driving clubs and putters.
6. It is the player's responsibility to ensure that his or her clubs conform to the Rules of Golf, including all applicable conditions of competition. Players, therefore, should take care to ensure that any clubs carried during the stipulated round meet the requirements of the rules on clubs in effect for that competition. Moreover, it is strongly recommended that any questions regarding compliance with the Condition be resolved by the player in advance of the competition because onsite testing may not be available.
7. The committee in charge of the competition may rely on the Database and presume that clubs listed as meeting the Condition may be carried in the competition, without further field testing, unless the grooves or punch marks have been purposely modified (e.g., by re-grooving or sharpening). If a club is tested and fails any on-site evaluation for compliance with the Condition, that individual club may not be carried by the player, when the Condition is in effect, even if that model is included in the Database as complying with the Condition.
8. Questions regarding the conformance status of any clubs should be directed to the USGA Equipment Standards department at (908) 234-2300.