USGA takes on-site groove testing for a spin
Thursday, September 3, 2009
Brian Davis, c’mon down, you’re the first contestant on the new reality show, “Are your grooves going to be legit next year?”
PGA Tour pros won’t be doing cartwheels down the aisle as if they were contestants on “The Price is Right,” but last week, the USGA began voluntary testing of player grooves at The Barclays ahead of the new grooves rules, which goes into effect for pros Jan. 1.
Dick Rugge, the USGA’s senior technical director, said Davis was the first Guinea pig, Aug. 25. Once word got out, Rugge said they measured the grooves in 90 clubs before the tournament began.
At the Tour’s request, Rugge’s staff is attending this week’s Deutsche Bank Championship, too. (The USGA wasn’t planning on it.) The USGA also will attend several Fall Series events. The idea is to familiarize players with the process so there’s no shock factor in January.
Interestingly, the USGA developed its field test in-house. As the story goes, over a year ago the USGA purchased a state-of-the-art, 3-D optical-measurement device to analyze grooves. The price tag: $175,000.
“It was absurd to think of taking the machine on Tour,” Rugge said.
What to do? Well, after much experimenting the USGA settled on a solution featuring the V500 Epson flatbed scanner. Retail price: $175.
“We got the first one from Staples,” Rugge said.
On-site, here’s how it works. The USGA takes a mold of the grooves using two putty-like materials. Then a section of the mold (which takes 10 minutes to be cured) is sliced off with a device Rugge calls “the bagel cutter.” The mold is placed on the scanner and analyzed by a software program developed in conjunction with the R&A.
Rugge’s goal was to develop a field test that would indicate if a club was definitely conforming (or non-confirming) but if the test results proved to be in a gray area, the club in question would be sent for further testing to the USGA in Far Hills, N.J., and reviewed with the $175,000 “Mack Daddy” machine.
Here’s the kicker: That shouldn’t be necessary. It turns out that the $175 version is more accurate than its pricier counterpart. Sometimes less is truly more.
“It’s incredible,” Rugge said.