PGA Tour commissioner Tim Finchem announced June 30 that Tour players will begin using smaller-groove irons and wedges beginning Jan. 1, despite recent calls to delay implementing the new rule for one year.
The PGA Tour’s Policy Board was expected to vote on the matter, but in an unexpected move deferred the decision to Finchem. In recent months, some players and equipment companies had increasingly complained that they needed more time to make the switch to the new grooves.
Though Finchem acknowledged that meeting the original timetable would pose some challenges, he implied it would be unfair to change policy at this late juncture.
“Candidly, having more time is always a good thing for just about anything you want to do. . . and it probably would be a somewhat easier transition had we waited, but a lot of people in the industry are down the road,” Finchem said.
Some equipment makers, including Ping, had said they had already made necessary business changes regarding product manufacturing and implied a policy reversal could lead to legal action.
The USGA and R&A announced the new rule last August along with agreements from all the major professional tours that they would adopt the smaller grooves next year. But with the start date looming ever closer, numerous PGA Tour players expressed concern that they didn’t have sufficient time to test clubs with the new grooves nor fully comprehend the impact they’ll have on their games.
Furthermore, some equipment manufacturers expressed concern that implementing the new rule in 2010 would cause consumer confusion in the marketplace. Though tour players would need to switch to the new grooves, club makers are allowed to continue selling existing clubs with bigger grooves until the end of 2010.
In a written statement, Acushnet Co., parent of the Titleist brand, expressed disappointment in the PGA Tour’s decision and added: “One of the most significant consequences of this equipment roll back is that. . . (it) creates a bifurcation between the equipment that the Tours are using and the equipment consumers have available in the marketplace.
“We believe that alignment of these dates to January 1, 2011 is critical as it allows for a thoughtful, orderly and comprehensive implementation of the proposed new grooves for all parties.”
The governing bodies reduced the size of current U-grooves and the sharpness of their edges out of concern that these high-spinning designs were allowing tour players to escape from the rough too easily.