TaylorMade, USGA at odds over new wedges

TaylorMade’s TP wedges with xFT (exchangeable face technology) have hit a speed bump.

Although the U.S. Golf Association has approved the wedges, it has told TaylorMade not to sell interchangeable faces with aggressive U grooves. Faces with smaller grooves that meet 2010 PGA Tour specifications are OK, according to the USGA, but faces with larger grooves are not.

TaylorMade immediately appealed the USGA decision, and chief technical officer Benoit Vincent traveled to USGA headquarters in Far Hills, N.J., in October to present his case. Vincent said he would discuss the wedges after Nov. 9, when a ruling on the appeal is expected.

The wedges, from 50 to 64 degrees, are scheduled for release early next year. A face plate can be removed and replaced in a few minutes, using the same torque wrench designed for TaylorMade drivers.

Equipment appeals are heard three times per year by the USGA, during regularly scheduled meetings of the Executive Committee and the Equipment Standards Committee.

TaylorMade’s argument is simple: Golf club manufacturers are allowed to produce wedges with larger, aggressive grooves during 2010, so TaylorMade should be allowed to sell face plates with the same grooves during the same period.

Beginning Jan. 1, 2011, manufacturers can no longer make or distribute any clubs with the larger grooves.

PGA Tour player Rory Sabbatini used one of the wedges with xFT during the Turning Stone Resort Championship in October, but he checked with USGA officials first to make sure he was not in violation of any rule.

USGA senior technical director Dick Rugge declined to talk about the decision to prohibit the sale of face plates with aggressive grooves, saying, “We never comment on matters like this. You’ll have to talk with the company.”

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