Get Your “Groove” On

September 24, 2009 Stan Utley 1516 9 Comments

A few of my friends have asked, “Stan, what type of effect do you think these new groove regulations will have on scoring, if any at all?” If you aren’t already familiar, the USGA has decided to regulate the size of the grooves on the face of golf clubs. In summary, they have reduced the maximum groove volume by about 25% from what is currently allowed and they have limited the groove edge sharpness to a minimum radius of .010 inches.  The new limit will produce groove edges that are substantially duller than what is currently allowed. The objective of these changes is to limit the effectiveness of shots from the rough.

My friends at Titleist have prepared The Groove Roll-back: Report outlining all the details of these new regulations, which for pros goes into effect January 1, 2010. Below you will see a section of that report which I feel clearly displays some potential threats to those outrageously low scores we see players shot from time-to-time. There is a fair chance that the seldom shot but coveted 59 during competition play may become a thing of the past.

Performance Implications
Consistent with the findings contained within the USGA published studies of January 2007 and July 2007, our research confirmed that all players will be significantly impacted by the reduction of spin, higher launch angle and more roll out from full shots and 50-yard pitch shots from the rough.

  • Spin rate is reduced by 30 to 50%
  • Launch angle increases 7-20% or up to 5º higher
  • Roll out of the ball after impact on the green is 9 to 15 feet more

The magnitude of these changes is far greater than most players anticipate. All players will be required to make time and resource consuming changes to their game to address the impact of these performance differences. Beyond wedge and iron changes, players will likely consider other equipment changes such as their golf ball, driver and set composition. In addition to their equipment, players may also need to spend considerable time changing their course strategy and technique.


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9 Comments Leave New
Tom Harlan October 16, 2009

This is the best thing to happen to tournament in 25 years! Finally we can leave the “bomb and gouge” days behind. Square grooves and the creation of the “4 man scramble” tournament were enough to make Bobby Jones roll over in his grave. An entire generation has been taught that the ONLY rules in golf are hit it as far as you can, go for every sucker pin and hammer every putt.
As an Golf Instructor who loves the game at it’s core…as in…play it where it lies and putt everything in the hole. I applaud the USGA for giving the game back to those who work hard, use their bodies AND their brains to hit the right shot to the right place at the right time!

    Stan Utley October 16, 2009


    No doubt, these changes are going to challenge the players. But, most of them adapt pretty well to things like this. It’ll be very interesting watching the stats to see how they are doing with the roll-back.

    Thanks for visiting and commenting. Appreciate it very much.


Ty Zimmerman February 5, 2010

Mr. Utley,

I have just read “The Groove Roll Back Report” and noticed in this report that the ball will release more and drop the spin rate down almost 4000 on full shots. To produce more spin the club will have to travel faster to help pick up more spin. With being a Golf Professional and a regular tournament player I will have to know how to play this shot and teach this to my better player players. How can this be done with your teaching (I am more interested in the pitch shot)?


Ty Z

    Stan Utley February 8, 2010


    I have been playing the new grooves since August. Yes, they spin less on short pitches and shots from the rough. I have had success controlling my pitch shots using a shallow attack angle on the ball and an early release of the club face. This shot pitches the ball so that the landing is softened. The will help since spin is less than the sharper grooves that we have used the past several years. We are all learning to adapt to the new rule!

    All the best,


david holloway March 9, 2010

As a fellow pga professional,do you know where i can obtain a list of wedges which are allowed to be used on tour.So far i have only found one from the R&A but it seems most wedges are banned.

    Stan Utley March 18, 2010

    Dave…none that I’ve seen. Your best bet is to check with the USGA head office in New Jersey to see if they have an up-to-date list on their web site or available as a PDF download. Alternately, you may have to check with each manufacturer, such as Vokey’s web site, to see if they can provide any guidance. These sites usually give you the ability to add your add comments or send along questions that someone on the technical or marketing side may be able to answer for you.


JPayne March 26, 2010

Mr. Utely,

I would like to correct something with regards to why the new rules create less spin. While the grooves are duller, the less spin comes from the grooves having less volume. Less volume means less space for the grass, water, sand etc. to collect. Therefore, those elements than may have been collected in the grooves will now come between the ball and the club face. On a perfect lie with no elements, a flat club face, one with no grooves will spin the ball the greatest as it provides the most surface area for the ball to make contact with. It’s the same concept tires use. Grooves to dissipate the water, but on a race track flat tires rule the roost.

    Stan Utley April 5, 2010

    I’ll take your word on this as a statement of fact. I’ve not hit a grooveless wedge before, so I can’t say whether this is true or not, although logic would indicate that it is. You can connect with the experts at Vokey through their web site to get their opinion on this idea.


David Holloway July 15, 2010

Dear Stan:If you could help me with the following i would much appreciate,
I have been a pro for many years,and spend my time playing and teaching.
My passion for the game is as strong as ever,and i know that if i can get my short game to tour standard it would let me play full time.

In October i will have 6 months free time to work on my short game.I want to get the best out of this 6 months as possible and get as good as i can from 100 yards and in.

Would you be kind enough to put together a short game practice plan for me,which i would stick to for these 6 months which you think would get me to where i need to be.

It would be for me a massive help for my future as a player

kindest regards