Flogging To Be Studied

FlogGolf2.jpgThere have been (not too subtle) hints that the governing bodies believe improved grooves encourage the flogging approach to championship courses.

The USGA's David Fay recently told a gathering of regional golf association heads that grooves may even pose a greater threat to golf's integrity than optmization-fed distance increases. He also shrugged off the distance issue as something only impacting the sport at the "highest level." (As opposed to grooves having an effect on all levels!?)

And now according to Douglas Lowe in The Herald, the USGA and R&A are going to study grooves. And all because of 2005's hip, edgy, cool and might I say, quite 18-34 approach to golf, better known as flogging.  Lowe writes:

To make it more difficult for the world's top players to reach for the stars, the R&A is using specially modified missile-tracking equipment to keep a check on the progress of the ball, with the help of Dr Steve Otto.

Dr Otto said the radar had revolutionised equipment research, despite the difficulties. "Tracking a small, white ball with very little metallic compound is a lot harder than tracking missiles."

The profile of a winning golfer 20 years ago used to be one whose drives found the fairways and whose iron shots found the greens. Now the world's top golfers are blazing away with abandon from the tee, with scant concern about direction, and more often than not getting safely on to the putting surfaces from long grass.

In a free market world, what's wrong with a new progressive approach? You can't legislate progress!

Dr Otto, the R&A's assistant director with responsibility for research and testing, said: "Players are not worrying so much about whether the ball is on the fairway. That has led us to look at different aspects of the game, and not just distance.

"We are looking at a player's ability to recover from the rough and whether that is based on their skill and strength, or whether equipment changes have helped."

Backspin imparted by the grooves on a club allows a player to stop the ball on the green, but top golfers have been making a nonsense of the idea that it is more difficult to do that from long grass.Dr Otto said that, in the 1980s, about 50% of a golfer's earnings could be credited to accuracy from the tee. By the 1990s, that figure had fallen to 25% and currently it is running at as little as 5%. As a result, there is concern that brute force in golf is taking over from skill.

And it's all the grooves fault!? 

"This trend has made us look more carefully at how grooves on the face of wedges are evolving," he added.

"They used to be basically ground out, but now they are milled with much greater accuracy, using computers. Perhaps they [manufacturers] are able to make sharper edges and better groove profiles."The current rules on the grooves on wedges have been in place for more than two decades when non V-shapes were allowed, but the distances between them were at the heart of a legal dispute with the Karsten Manufacturing Company.

Sales pitches of greater length and control and the need to maintain skill levels have always been a conflict. Now the possibility of limiting the shape and the distance between grooves is under the microscope again.To monitor the latest advances, the R&A and its partner organisation, the United States Golf Association, have employed this radar device developed by a Danish company that specialises in missile tracking.

Yes, I think it's safe to say the game is in trouble when you are using missile tracking radar to determine how the ball is coming out of the rough.

Hate to break this one to them, but golf did fine for 300 years without crops of rough being harvested to keep golfers gingerly teetering down a narrow center line.

I've started a thread over on the Discussion Technology page asking if you think grooves are significantly better than a few years ago and if you think it's something the USGA/R&A should be studying.