Former USGA Technical Director Frank Thomas weighs in on the proposed U-groove change...
Based on the USGA’s approach to equipment regulation over the last several years, and assuming the manufacturers don’t mount a concerted effort to object, I’d say the proposal for a rule change on grooves is very likely to be adopted. I’d also say such a rule is irrational and illogical – and, sadly, it’s in keeping with the USGA’s recent actions I first discussed this topic in my November 2006 Frankly Friends Newsletter.
The concern that has been cited as the impetus for the proposal revolves, first around .001% of the golfing population and secondly and more importantly the problem which is trying to be resolved has not been adequately defined. Also there is no evidence that the game (on the tour or elsewhere) will benefit from the change. It will certainly be different and may be costly to implement and difficult to monitor.
I've heard from several local golf association officials already that they would like to know how this is going to be monitored, on top of the questions that Thomas is raising.
The USGA explains this proposal by saying that the rough is not enough of a penalty for the long and wayward golfers using U-shaped grooves on the professional Tours. What they haven’t said is that this problem – if it is a problem – applies only to light rough (1 to 2 inches thick). If it’s any longer, there’s no performance difference between any types of grooves; the grass is too long for it to matter.
Would this last point be the reason that the USGA study seems to avoids defining rough heights in their field study?