Grooves rule prompts confusion at Sea Best

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Confusion regarding USGA rule about grooves emerged Monday at the Sea Best Invitational.

Jacksonville's Brett McKinnon was singled out by a playing competitor for a possible violation during the first round at TPC Sawgrass' Stadium Course. The question centered on whether one of his wedges conformed to rules that more strictly limit the size of grooves.

The USGA implemented the rule at the U.S. Open and other high-level events in 2010, and the PGA Tour and PGA of America also adopted the rule that year.

On Jan. 1 this year, the rule was extended to include this condition of competition to what the USGA calls the “highest level of amateur golf” and is “recommended only for competitions involving expert players.” It leaves implementation of the rule in the hands of a tournament’s competition committee.

NCAA rules stipulate that the stricter grooves regulations are not in place for Division I regular-season events, and McKinnon was not docked any shots.

"There was no penalty," said Todd Vatter, Jacksonville's sports information director for men's golf. "The ruling is in effect for the postseason only and is optional for the regular season."

Here's how the NCAA hard card, which defines rules, addresses grooves: "For the NCAA Championships, the player's clubs must conform to the groove and punch mark specifications in the Rules of Golf that are effective from January 1, 2010. Penalty for breach of Condition: see Decision 4-1/1. This is an optional condition for regular season."

"What they decided for this year is that because this (rule change) was a mid-season thing, it would be optional for the regular season and be left up to each individual tournament (on whether to enforce the rule)," said Todd Satterfield, president of the Golf Coaches Association of America and men's head coach at Furman.

Satterfield said that emails explaining the stipulation have been sent during the past week to coaches and tournament directors.

At one point, a local media report indicated that McKinnon, a junior from Glace Bay, Nova Scotia, had been assessed four strokes – i.e., two strokes per hole – because he was carrying the nonconforming club for his first two holes.

Had the stricter grooves been required by the tournament committee, McKinnon would have been docked two shots for each hole on which he carried the club without using it, with a maximum of four strokes. Had he used the club at any point, he would have been disqualified.

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