Ask the expert: Frank Thomas

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Frank Thomas, former technical director for the USGA

Why have you been so critical of the USGA’s new grooves mandate?

I think the rule is ill-conceived because it is based on some questionable data.

You are referring to the relationship of driving accuracy to the money list on the PGA Tour, right? For several years, the top money winners have been near the bottom in driving accuracy.

Yes. I don’t think there will be any significant change in driving accuracy or the money list. The elite golfers will adapt fairly rapidly to the new grooves, which are designed to produce less spin out of the rough.

Will the grooves changeover harm the game?

It’s not necessary. For a very, very small percentage of golfers (touring professionals), the rule is being changed for 35 million golfers (around the world). I think that’s misguided. I think the USGA has better things to do with its time and money.

Because touring pros are switching in 2010 to new grooves but most of us don’t have to switch until 2024, is this bifurcation (different rules for different golfers)?

Yes, it is. If we expect golfers to abide by the rules, the rules must make intuitive sense. This one doesn’t. I’ve got hundreds of letters from people who say they are not going to contribute to the USGA any more. The USGA made this change completely without the consent of the governed.

Would you explain that?

In 1923, when the USGA and R&A were trying to figure out the size and weight of the ball, they went to their constituents. In 1928, they did the same thing, asking golfers what they thought about the new steel shafts. With grooves, all this history was disregarded.

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