R&A Getting Into the Groove(s)

John Huggan talks balls and clubs with Peter Dawson, who, through some form of divine intervention, actually displays a moment of wisdom:

"The longest average drive has moved up about 20 yards in the last ten years," conceded R&A secretary Peter Dawson. "There is no doubt about that. The advent of the ProV1-type ball has most to do with it, along with the bigheaded drivers. So do I think that the game at the top level - this elite few - would benefit from the ball being a little bit shorter? Yes, I do."
Ah but the fun only lasts long enough for Dawson to wheel out the latest distraction. That would be this nonsense about grooves. 
Speaking exclusively to Scotland on Sunday, Dawson identified a possible loophole through which golf's administrators may - without upsetting litigious equipment companies- discourage the mindless blasting from the tee that is such a feature of today's game. Last year the top three players on the PGA Tour - Woods, Vijay Singh and Phil Mickelson - finished 188th, 147th and 161st respectively in driving accuracy. To them, power is apparently all that matters.

"We are considering coming at the distances the elite hit the ball from the other end, if you like," Dawson revealed. "One of the things I don't like to see - and I know it is a view shared by many golf administrators - is this disconnection between driving accuracy and success. The top players don't care about hitting the fairway. And part of the reason why they don't care is the level of control they can get even from the rough with modern wedges and balls.

"And that is why we are having a very hard look at the grooves on club-faces right now. The key is the sharpness of the right-angled edge on every groove. The sharper the grooves, the more spin a good player can potentially put on the ball. It is an effect you see on so many short shots."

You see, the narrowing of course to offset regulatory complacency on distance did not work. And since you cannot further narrow a 22-yard wide fairway without even the most clueless observer noticing the lunacy of it all, well, then something else must be done.

Anything to not address distance. Anything.

I think they'd actually contemplate shrinking the hole before addressing optimization of launch conditions, which is odd since an appropriate policy/test would not impact average golfers. As for the other Band-Aids they are considering so they don't have to lose face and tackle the only issue that matters...

Dawson is also asked what will hopefully be an issue that goes about as far as the pleas to reduce the number of clubs in the bag (that's hopefully no where...). This would be the 60 degree wedge.

"The loft is an interesting issue," he admitted. "I know Tiger is one who has mentioned a 56-degree limit. But the best 60-degree wedge I've ever seen was made in the 1960s. So that is not new, and is not on what I would call the active list.

Is this actually something people are discussing? Eliminating the 60 degree wedge? Oh lordy!

"Ultimately, we and the USGA will decide these groove-related matters. But there is no point in us going over the top out of the trenches if no-one follows us. There are other stakeholders who need to be reasonably content with whatever is done, if anything. For change to be made, it has to be reasonably supported by the tours, the elite players and the manufacturers. And it must not be too damaging to the average player."

Huggan replies...

Speaking of you and me, Dawson needn't concern himself too much. The notion that re-grooving your 60-degree wedge is automatically going to knock six shots off your next round is unfortunately not one in which it would be wise to place too much faith. Even science can't make up for bad technique.

Oh balls.