The Groove Rule – What Does it Mean?


What’s all the hoopla over the “groove” rule, and what does it mean for me? I get asked this question a lot by my students. They’ve read and heard so much about “V” grooves and “U” grooves, but few really know how and when all these changes are going to affect them. Considering the cost of equipment today, I don’t blame them for asking about it.

In short, there are three significant dates to remember. To the average player, only one of these has any real importance if you play in club or local daily fee course pick-up games. On the other hand, if you play in USGA sanctioned events, well you’re going to have to think about this in a few years. Finally, if you are a tour pro, then you already know about the impact this will have on your equipment, and considering that many pros have manufacturer reps working with them out on tour in the tour vans, most are already working with prototypes on the practice range to determine the levels of spin they’ll get out of all types of rough and many different lies.

Tour pros will be affected beginning with all tournament play on January 1, 2010. No ifs, ands or buts about it. Tour officials have decreed that play will begin after the first of the year with clubs that are conforming to the new standards.

The second calendar date to remember is 2014, since all sanctioned amateur tournaments operating under USGA or R&A rules will require that all clubs of 24 degrees of loft or higher must adhere to the new groove standard, and any non-comforming clubs will be relegated to that old, dusty and massively heavy “tour” or cart bag in the garage that holds all your old clubs. I know I have one of those at my house in Arizona, and it’s a grab bag of clubs I’ve retired from active use. Tour players and competitive amateurs may have to get a second “old club bag” to hold their non-conforming clubs.

The final group impacted by these equipment changes will be every day golfers who just have fun playing around their local courses. While most new equipment released over the next year will be fully compliant, you won’t be required to replace your clubs until 2024. By then, technology will be such that you may wish to buy new clubs anyway, but the powers that be won’t force you to get rid of those comfortable, pitted, scuffed and rusty wedges and irons until then.

So, breathe a sigh of relief if you just play golf to have fun. If you play in sanctioned amateur events, you’ve got some time before you have to commit. If you are a professional on one of the tours, well…your equipment provider has probably already sent you new clubs that are in full compliance! It should be very interesting to watch how the pros adapt to changes in spin…but, these guys and ladies are good, so we may see little change in how they play the courses beginning in 2010.