USGA Notice: We're Looking At High Lofted Wedges

Bout and Gas are reporting over at their GolfDigest.com blog that the USGA has issued a notice suggesting...

...the USGA will be conducting "research on high-lofted wedges. This research is being conducted to determine if high-lofted wedges (for example, 60 degrees of loft and higher) can reduce the challenge of the game for shots near the green." I have heard recently that players at this year's U.S. Amateur attacked the bowl-shaped greens at Pinehurst No. 2 with a fleet of high-lofted wedges. Not exactly what Donald Ross had envisioned, I believe. Let's get rid of those wedges. The only people who really know how to use them are good players anyway. Allowing a club to further help a good player more than an average player is unnecessary at this stage, moreover letting a good player not have to develop the skill of manipulating a lower-lofted wedge to hit a particular shot is encouraging a leveling of the playing field that strikes at the heart of what golf competition should be.

You could also make that case for most modern equipment: it helps the elite player more than it helps the average man (Tom Wishon has discussed this at length).

After Gas' comments above, Bout agrees and argues that the limit should be 58 degrees.

Back in 2002, Charles Howell III carried a Cleveland 588 64-degree wedge, saying that although the club was effective, it didn't get much call. "I rarely use the 64-degree club--maybe two times a tournament," he said. "But it's perfect when I short-side a green or if there's long rough and hard, fast greens. Then it's almost like cheating--the ball stops wherever it lands."

Whenever you hear a player say, "it's almost like cheating," then it's time to look into things.

Fair point. However, here's why this is a mistake for the USGA to pursue:

- It takes great skill to pull off a high-lofted wedge shot. The more loft a club has, the more difficult it is to hit shots with any consistency. Yet restoration of "skill" is the primary motivation on the groove rule change, albeit a shallow definition of it (rewarding the striking of drives down a narrow center line).

- The recovery shot has taken a beating in the era of high rough and slick greens. Do we really want to eliminate one more recovery shot? One that takes skill to pull off? I don't think so. Unfortunately, too many governing body leaders are penal school aficionados and the recovery shot is forbidden in that cynical approach to golf.

- Serious pursuit of loft will negate the positive reaction to the groove rule change by only reinforcing the notion that the governing bodies are looking to do anything but even discuss something like the golf ball. (BTW, we're entering year seven since the first time the words "ball study" were uttered.)

- High lofted wedges require soft conditions. You need lush turf to pull off the "cheating" shots that they speak of. It also helps to have a receptive target to land your ball on. In other words, firm conditions generally negate the impact of the high-lofted wedge. Perhaps the real issue here is widespread overwatering and lush, green-at-all-costs turf?

Please, your thoughts?