Golf Digest has posted Mike Stachura's excellent October story on the pending grooves controversy. You might recall that I posted something about this story a while back, but there was no link to the actual piece.
Stachura, who is part of the
Belch and Gulp Bomb and Gouge blog team that writes so highly of this site, explores the USGA's preliminary report. In it, the Far Hills gang signals their concern that U-grooves are the cause of all world problems.
One of the key graphs from Stachura's story:
Rugge has repeatedly pointed to analysis of PGA Tour driving-accuracy statistics in his discussions about modern technology. Using a mathematical formula called a correlation coefficient, Rugge shows the correlation between accuracy off the tee and rank on the money list has dropped to zero, as in the two events are completely independent of each another. That's a dramatic change from the 1980s, when driving accuracy was as statistically strong an indicator of success as greens in regulation and putting. "We have 20 years of data from the tour that suggests this might be a problem," Rugge says. "Grooves could be a logical cause of that change. We also have better means of evaluation than we had 20 years ago, and that includes equipment and staffing."
Fairway widths cut by 15-25 yards may have something to do with it too. It will be interesting to see if the USGA addresses this component of the equation. I have my doubts.
Those in the know suggest that given the USGA's mandate for a single set of rules, going after grooves might be a way to put a regulator on distance without affecting average golfers. In a Bomb-and-Gouge world, if shots from the rough were more difficult, an elite player needing to hit it close to the hole might opt for control off the tee over power. Average players, content to hit shots close to the green, might be less impacted by the inconsistency of V-grooves.
Of course this is a backdoor attempt to deal with the distance issue, but more importantly seems a bit dubious when you consider what Frank Thomas wrote in his Golf Digest column about the impact of U-grooves in tournament caliber rough.
From light rough (up to two inches), a ball will spin 40 percent less than it would from dry conditions. This is because the water in grass serves as a lubricant between the ball and the clubface. Because the cover never penetrates more than .005 inches into the groove, which is limited to a depth of .02 inches, this is the only condition in which groove configuration matters. Out of light rough the groove depth can carry away more water and decrease the effects of lubrication on spin. However, from rough of four to five inches, it doesn't matter what type of ball or grooves you are using.