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The USGA and Grooves: Grumpy Old Men or Guardians of the Game?

Jun. 28, 2007     By     Comments (19)

What if the USGA threw an accuracy party, and nobody showed up?

Thrash Talk In 1989, Mark Calcavecchia hit a remarkable golf shot into the 18th green at Royal Troon, setting up a birdie that lead to an eventual victory in the (British) Open Championship. Almost 20 years later in the Tiger era, we have become awash in so many remarkable golf shots that Calc's 5-iron is almost forgotten today. But it is a very important shot historically, and it's worth recounting today. Especially as the USGA is about to embark on the biggest rule change in the last 30 years.

What made Calc's shot noteworthy was that it was from light rough - a "flyer" lie - yet Calcavecchia spun the shot with his Ping Eye2 iron as if it were from a clean fairway lie, moonwalking the ball within a few feet of the hole. While this might not seem so unusual to someone who has only been watching golf for a few years, to golfers raised in the pre-Ping Eye2 era, seeing a shot like this elicits a reaction similar to what might be expected from a group of nuns brought to a Chippendale's club: a mixture of wonder, shock, and disgust. For many, including a few prominent pros and other members of golf's elite, this evasion of the expected punishment for missing the fairway is tantamount to a moral transgression, and seems even more egregious given its pivotal role in deciding a great national championship.

To boot, it occurred near the end of an almost decade-long legal battle between Karsten Manufacturing (makers of the Ping Eye2), the USGA, and the PGA Tour, over the legality of square grooves. As most of you no doubt know, a compromise settlement was reached in that lawsuit, and slightly modified square grooves were deemed legal. At the time, many thought the USGA and PGA Tour had sold out the integrity of the game in the interests of fiscal expediency, and seeing Calcavecchia's 5-iron must have felt like salt in the wound. Well, 20 years later, the USGA has come back, looking to set things right. At least that's what they think they're doing.

The details of the current groove controversy have received considerable attention in the golf media recently. The crux of the story - as told by the USGA - is that the relationship between hitting fairways and winning money on the PGA Tour (traditionally a strong, positive correlation) has declined markedly in recent years. In other words, success on Tour in the 70s and 80s could be predicted reasonably well by looking at a player's driving accuracy stat. The more accurately you drove it, in general, the more likely you were to be a winner.

In recent years, this correlation has almost vanished, and many place the blame on square-groove irons, which allow players far greater control from shots in the rough than was the case with balata balls and V-grooves. And while a correlation does not prove causation, in enacting new groove regulations, the USGA believes that they can significantly increase the penalty for missing a fairway, and thereby restore the proper role of driving accuracy in success on Tour. In other words, they hope to shift the sport's balance of power and precision back to the latter.

While the basic beef against square grooves is no different than what the USGA alleged in the 1980s, a few other things are different this time around. The USGA's testing center, unable to muster convincing data to indict square grooves in the 80s, has recently completed a two-year study of staggeringly impressive detail and precision which shows beyond a shadow of doubt that modern grooves and balls outperform their ancestors, and all indications are that the USGA isn't backing down this time.

While this groove business raises a host of interesting questions, the one I find most interesting is a simple one: will it work? And by "work," I am referring not to whether or not balls will spin less with the new grooves. There is no doubt in my mind they will. But whether or not this will translate into a difference in scoring patterns on Tour is, in my mind anyway, much less certain. To me, this is the part of it that amounts to a big experiment.

What the USGA is trying to do, in essence, is to change the basic approach golfers take to scoring. Whether we think of it as micro-managing, operant conditioning, or genetic engineering, the upshot is that the ruling bodies object to how these guys are playing the game, and they are rewriting the rule book, mandating large-scale changes in manufacturing practices, and getting into the golf bags of millions of recreational golfers, all in an attempt to change a few hundred athletes' behavior patterns. Gosh for their sake I hope it works.

At first glance, the tendency is to conclude "of course it will work." I mean, if every time - or even most of the time - you try to hit from the rough, you hit a low flying shot that bounces and rolls 60 feet after hitting, you aren't going to be knocking down pins as well as you could with a spinning shot. The obvious response, assuming you want to make birdies and avoid bogies, would be to alter your approach to the game and try to hit more fairways. Those who take their medicine and embrace accuracy will be more successful in the long run, because they'll have more control with the approach shot and have the best chance to hit it close to the hole. In other words, ditch "bomb and gouge," and embrace "fairways and greens."

Sounds simple enough. But as Einstein said, everything should be as simple as possible, but not simpler. Scoring in golf is an often mysterious thing, and we know that wild hitters who can scramble and putt are a match for anyone. So before we try to change everyone's clubs, wouldn't we want to know where the bombers' birdies and bogies are coming from? I mean, do we even know that the gouged shots from the rough are leading to birdies? Maybe it's the ones that find the fairway that are leading to the good scores, and the penalty of the errant drives is being swallowed up by the players' skill around the greens with the lob wedge. For all the screaming about bomb and gouge, aren't the successful bombers the ones who also happen to have great short games? Who is to say that they won't go on playing the same way they do now, V-grooves or not, taking their chances at scrambling?

In golf, sometimes a miss is as good as a mile, and simply making it harder to control the shots from the rough does not guarantee you'll see more bogies from there (remember that magic lob wedge). Also remember that the stereotyped, "wild" bomber golfer still hits 50-60% of the fairways, which allows more than ample opportunity for scoring. The new grooves will perform the same as the old from fairway lies, and it will always be better to be hitting wedge from the fairway than 7-iron from the fairway. In short, the USGA might think they are getting to Achilles' heel, but I'll believe it when I see it.

There are other potential flaws in the USGA's logic. I am not old enough to have seen much golf played in the 1960s and 70s, but I think it is definitely possible that the correlation between driving accuracy and success in years past is a statistical illusion. Maybe in those days the sport of golf attracted a class of athlete that was, shall we say, less "dynamic" than the strapping lads prowling the fairways today. Maybe the accuracy formula was in vogue because it was the best fit for the type of athlete playing the game at that time, and today's athletes are simply playing to their strengths. Sort of a Darwinian, "natural selection" process.

Also, it's not like we never saw people overpower golf courses in the 1970s, is it? How about Nicklaus's third round at Augusta in 1965? Style of play, be it power or control, is a personal decision. And while I respect the opinions of golf greats and the intelligent folks in our ruling bodies, the fact is we don't really know why people favored the contol approach in the past, much less if it was the best method. Yes, Jack won more than anyone with superior control, but is it at least possible he could have done the same or better had he played a more power-oriented game? If I sound like I'm off my meds, just think for a minute about something that happened once in the baseball world. In the first part of the 20th century, the great baseball minds all thought it was a fool's game to try to intentionally hit homeruns, and for this reason nobody did. Then Babe Ruth came along and, well, you know the rest of that story.

As Lee Trevino used to say when people questioned his unorthodox swing, golf is not a game of "how," but "how many." Today's players don't really care, I don't think, what the USGA or Mac O'Grady or the ghost of Tom Morris think of their aggressive, bombing style of play. They just want to win, baby, and they are doing it the best way they know how. That, in itself, should count for something. While this style of play has certainly been encouraged and facilitated by better, more forgiving golf equipment, it is just a guess to conclude that the equipment is the root cause.

Sorry, but this whole groove thing - from its genesis in a flimsy, non-causational correlation statistic, to its fruition in sweeping rule changes - strikes me as almost hubris, as if someone in golf's holy temple has decreed that today's champions are somehow unworthy of the title, because they go about it in a way that we find crude or unattractive. Or, if you like, picture a bunch of curmudgeons, sitting in rocking chairs on the front porch, complaining about the kids these days, and marveling at the memory of how they used to do it.

Okay, maybe that's too harsh. After all, someone has to look after the game and exert some control over it, lest we end up with X-game golf played in half-pipes or on ski slopes. The reader is also perfectly justified in looking at my handicap and concluding "this chopper has no clue." Maybe so. It is hard to argue with great champions like Arnold and Jack and literally hundreds of others who apparently believe that equipment is at the root of the changing style of play today.

And maybe precision really is paramount in golf; the list of championships won by the controlled, grinding method certainly seems to outnumber those won à la Daly at Crooked Stick. And I guess if I'm forced to rank my preferences between skill and raw power in golf, I'd choose the former, and the intention of this rule change is certainly in line with that hierarchy.

So for now, all we can do is sit and watch. Maybe the rule change will have its intended effect, and we will see Bubba and Camillo punished for their sins, making room for a new generation of accurate shotmakers in the mold of Lee Trevino. But don't just assume it will happen, and certainly don't put money on it. In the meantime, we can all rejoice in the fact that we now have an official excuse to go out and buy a new set of clubs.

Can't wait to go tell the wife.

Discussion

  1. Rick says:

    My club recently renovated its course, a relatively short but classic layout, by adding lots of fairway traps and expanding existing ones, thereby making club selection more important and putting a premium on accuracy. I overheard some young bucks moaning in the locker room that "We can't just hit it anymore, we have to think and actually hit our targets." What a concept.

    You said something very important: "I guess if I'm forced to rank my preferences between skill and raw power in golf, I'd choose the former." Bubba and JB are fun to watch, but IMO we don't want the game to belong to those who only hit as hard as they can without concern for accuracy (let's leave Tiger out of this, he's an anomaly who can do it all). Younger players should not be taught that power overcomes all. After all, we wouldn't think of enlarging the baseball strike zone to accomodate hard throwers who can't get it over the plate, would we?

  2. Allin says:

    You are correct that the other factors which have led to this change in style may overwhelm this one aspect. Even I would rather hit a wedge from short to medium rough to a 5 iron from the fairway. The rough and other factors have to match, long rough, bunkers that are'nt easier to hit from than the fringe etc. Are other equipment limitations coming? Limits on ball spin? Or minimum spin? Some balls are really hard to spin if you can't spin it anyway maybe pros will choose a ball that won't spin, hit it 15 yards farther and straight and score anyway. Instruction and science are better than ever at giving such talented indivuduals ways to excel.

  3. teeitup says:

    There are loads of factors here that are not being examined. Is this move to straighten out some injustice with regard to 250 golfing professionals or is it to straighten us hackers out? Players today do nothing but play golf and have since childhood - Tiger is a stellar example. So they are going to be better because of this: More practice, means more skill. But us hackers are still having days of 95 and days of 81 and the equipment has made things more fun and less erratic. The USGA is for all people who golf, not for the 250 that makes millions doing it for a living - that's the PGA. If the USGA makes changes to the pro's then the hacker will want the pro's equipment and their game will really suffer. While the the winning Open score will be .65 strokes higher my score will be 8 strokes worse. The majority should be the guiding force.

    It's the balls. Recently I took out my friend's 70's era Hagen two wood. I hit off the grass with no practice swings, nothing. I hit a ProV1. 250, perfectly straight, great ball flight, perfect click. Jack says it's the balls and I agree, but I'm not ever going back to playing my 80's era Rock-Flight ball. The game wasn't fun with it then and won't be now. So returning to the old ball is not a good answer either.

    I say this. Get five touring pros out there with the so called "fairer" equipment (hagen two wood) and test that with old balls, new balls and all the rest. Let's stop looking at statistics derived by subjective information and just test it outright, let'm play it old school and new school and see what the scores are. If there is a .75 difference as I suspect there will be, we'll know the improvement in scores is skill: skill derived by endless practicing, single minded devotion to golf, fitted clubs, cushy professional experience (travel, hotels etc.) and and a dose of equipment.

  4. JP says:

    Teeitup:

    I hear you loud and clear.

    I think the idea of something like a tournament ball or tournament clubs should be more strongly considered than it has been.

    I have lots of ideas about this sort of thing, but I'm saving them for another Thrash Talk...

    But you are right on that the game is far easier and more enjoyable with modern clubs and balls, and that the USGA must consider this, since recreational golfers make up 99.99% of the game.

    As for your idea of testing the pros, well, that is what the USGA did with grooves, and is currently doing in a comprehensive study on the ball. In order to make meaningful observations, however, you have to take studies like this one step at a time, and interpreting the results isn't easy. In other words, your idea is good in principle, but I don't think it would be as easy as your last paragraph suggests. But the USGA is on it...

  5. Matt M says:

    I love this discussion by the USGA. I'm a decent player, I carry and play blades, strike the ball pretty good, and I was always kinda long off the tee. I grew up playing presimmon and lamenates with balata balls. Then in the 90s warbird drivers and burner bubbles, by then I was in my 20s in good shape and 265 to 270 was common. I was putting the ball past most the people I played except a few. Then kids and life made golf pretty much stop after 2001 maybe 6 rounds a year. At the end of last year I decided I need to make time in my life for my passion again. I went out and got fitted for new clubs, but I for some strange reason now place drive 300 yds. The ball doesnt slice or draw the way it use to off the tee, it tends to be more of push or pull. I m no expert in engineering and I don't have the robots the USGA has but it seems to me the drivers are hotter and the ball just flies father. Maybe the ProV1 isnt any longer than a Pinnacle in the 90's I dont know, but it sure spins alot more with a 8 iron than a Pinnacle. The Ball the ball the ball and driver are what are changing the game. The USGA are attacking the grooves because clubmakers will make money selling new clubs and the average probably won't notice that much difference, but how can u spin a Prov like a balata around a green. All I know is there are less rounds played now than before and USGA wants to make the game harder, that's well and good but the newer courses are designed longer and harder. Why can't the USGA change the COR of the ball or bounce of the driver face. And at the open mow the rough 2 inches shorter so the shotmakers have a chance again.

  6. Zach says:

    i agree that recreational golfers are who the USGA should be watching out for. Golf is difficult enough for us in the first place and even with all the new technology, average handicaps have not decreased. Will reverting to older technology make better players because they are forced to be more accurate? Hardly. It's got more chance of driving people away from the game because they are even farther away from playing like their favorite pro.

    The USGA should be concerned with expanding golf to anyone and everyone. By making it less accessible due to increased difficulty is not the solution.

    And frankly, I like watching Bubba Watson go after it with his pink shaft. The new bombers are hardly dominating the Tour.

  7. DeeKayFry says:

    I have to say that is a wonderful article. I played a lot of golf in the mid 80's and 90's and watched Nicklaus, Arnold Palmer, Tom Kite, etc.

    Golf is 90% golfer and 1% equipment. The remaining 9% is the Golf gods meddling with the ball as it runs towards the hole and suddenly swerves (its happened to everyone and me!) Just ask Trevino when he missed a 1 1/2" par and it cost him the PGA Championship. (Don't quote me on that, but this is cliche for every golfer even Tiger).

    I got wrapped up in the technics. There's Nicklaus's "Golf My Way," "Square to Square Golf," etc. My father and I poured over them and the videos. "Don't pick up the foot." "Pick up the foot." Stop at the top, don't go over... Spread your legs, keep them close...

    Bah!

    Just hit it and put it in the hole! If you want good statistics, with high correlations (nearly 1.00 if you ask the Golf gods). Putting... Nicklaus is a champion because he sunk 40 ft plus putts. Put it very, very simply and elegantly every game is won on putts.

    Now that is where the 90% and all the stats should be, if you can drive 300+ yards all day. You can hit a 3 iron from 220 out. But if your running the ball short of the hole by a width of a human hair or 20 feet past... You can play with 40 year old clubs or the latest one that fudges the USGA rules, you have to have the skill to do it.

    Go back to that really, really good statistic. Granted if you bouncing the ball in five shots to the green forget about putting, but for a wide range of handicaps, putting is 50 to 60% of your score, and you can play with any putter to do it well or do it terribly.

    It's not the equipment stupid, its the person who has it in their hands.

  8. Rick Carpenter says:

    While the retro-v grooves proposal is for irons, the intent is to improve driving accuracy. Why? Maybe it's older guys who don't care for the rock and roll long-hitting young punks on tour.

    I, for one, like to see the pros come out of the rough on occasion. Let them go long and occasionally go wide. Who cares? Makes a match more interesting to watch, and certainly gives me many to cheer for. (Also, I can be a lot more sympathetic to them, you know, the "been there, done that" thing of finding your tee shot in someone's back yard!)

    By the way, my irons are first gen v groove Eye 2s. Love 'em.

  9. Mike says:

    I think Pros now expect to be able to hit full shots out the rough and don't really consider it a hazard anymore. They aren't scared of it, so bomb it off the tee knowing even in the rough they'll likely reach the green unless they get unlucky and have a really bad lie. Yes, maybe improvement in equipment is partly why, but also Pros are stronger, better ability and faster clubhead speed so can get through much thicker rough than the rest of us. Also tour courses are very well manicured these days, a bit too well maybe? Pretty sure Tom Wishon said the Pro's clubhead speed can get through 4", although maybe not 6".

    Do the USGA really want to make it a penalty for being off-line? I'm not sure V grooves do that, just change the game slightly. Right now with some course rough, with or without U grooves players will still take on the shot and the only difference with V grooves will be less spin. They'll still be around the green there abouts, just maybe not as close..They will have to factor in the extra release, become better long putters or use the lob wedge more. I think Pros are good enough to work all that out. Even then, as some suggest ball design might just go back to a softer design to help with those V Grooves.

    If the USGA really wanted to make the rough a penalty hazard for being off line, then makes sense to make the rough tougher so that players are forced to chip out or lay up short of the green. Be that for injury concerns or because they cannot guarantee contact or control of the shot. Doesn't have to be all the rough, could just be in key areas or progressively tougher the further off-line. Then they might think twice about bombing it without due accuracy and risk going into rough that could cost them a stroke or more. There shouldn't be anything special about rough that means it should be made an easy hazard for Pros to get out of. Why else have fairways or rough at all?

    Maybe Pros have just got too used to getting out easy and going for the green, so seem to complain when they can't. Resulting in more getting lazy over course management and accuracy in the modern game?

    Does anyone think U-grooves made the US or British Open too easily with the way they were setup that week? A handful of events can manage it, so is the problem down to the way the rest of the tour courses are setup, too forgiving of off-line shots? Should the game be looking towards the grooves/ball that affect the whole game and industry, or at toughening those courses on tour so only affects the Pros? Where it can offer a challenge to the Pros, while still allowing the excitment of birdies and close approach shots if good course mangement is employed by Pros. The USGA and R&A both proved that course setup can tame Pros and their U-grooves with their respective Opens. So why wasn't that tried first at least? Or isn't that something the tour want to do?

    At the US Open this year, Tiger seems positive about the rough saying you should be penalized if you don't play the way the course is designed to. I guess if you are way off line, irrespective of spin why should you be able to reach the green nearly as well as if you were on the fairway in the first place. Otherwise there is no real premium put on accuracy and finding the fairway, so they are free from consequence of bombing it off the tee.

  10. richard says:

    What are the PGA members saying on this?
    My preferred litmus for any change is "will the change make the Ryder Cup a better event?" That is the environment in which intelligent play, golf at its best, dominates . . . or else!

  11. Do the USGA really want to make it a penalty for being off-line? I'm not sure V grooves do that, just change the game slightly. Right now with some course rough, with or without U grooves players will still take on the shot and the only difference with V grooves will be less spin. They'll still be around the green there abouts, just maybe not as close...

    That's the point - the inability to put spin on the ball removes the opportunity to put it close for birdie. Pros will be getting up and down for par - effectively a 1/4 shot penalty or so for missing the fairway.

    If the USGA really wanted to make the rough a penalty hazard for being off line, then makes sense to make the rough tougher so that players are forced to chip out or lay up short of the green. Then they might think twice about bombing it without due accuracy and risk going into rough that could cost them a stroke or more. There shouldn't be anything special about rough that means it should be made an easy hazard for Pros to get out of. Why else have fairways or rough at all?

    Rough is rather expensive to grow, takes a long time, and the course must still be somewhat playable outside of the one week a PGA Tour event comes to town.

    Does anyone think U-grooves made the US or British Open too easily with the way they were setup that week?

    Nobody's claiming it makes golf easy. The claim is that the balance of power versus accuracy has shifted a bit too far, and this may be a sane way of bringing it back.

    A handful of events can manage it, so is the problem down to the way the rest of the tour courses are setup, too forgiving of off-line shots? Should the game be looking towards the grooves/ball that affect the whole game and industry, or at toughening those courses on tour so only affects the Pros? Where it can offer a challenge to the Pros, while still allowing the excitment of birdies and close approach shots if good course mangement is employed by Pros.

    And what about good amateurs, playing in events. This isn't a change that will affect just PGA Tour players - it'll affect every pro and virtually every single-digit handicapper.

    The USGA and R&A both proved that course setup can tame Pros and their U-grooves with their respective Opens. So why wasn't that tried first at least? Or isn't that something the tour want to do?

    The PGA Tour and the USGA are separate entities altogether. Get that right first.

    Second, did you see how much Angel Cabrera spun the ball from the "first cut" (i.e. "light rough") on the 15th hole at the U.S. Open?

  12. I'm no expert in engineering and I don't have the robots the USGA has but it seems to me the drivers are hotter and the ball just flies father. Maybe the ProV1 isnt any longer than a Pinnacle in the 90's I dont know, but it sure spins alot more with a 8 iron than a Pinnacle.

    The ball goes a legal distance. Always has. This isn't a ball debate, and as far as I'm concerned, there isn't one. Today's Pro V1x is a marriage of a Pinnacle (distance) with a balata (though not quite) for the short game.

    Today's drivers have larger faces and longer and lighter shafts. The average swing speed for a driver has increased 13 MPH since 1987. Given that 1 MPH swing speed is equal to about 2.5 yards, there's most of your distance increase right there.

    … and driver are what are changing the game. The USGA are attacking the grooves because … the average probably won't notice that much difference

    Exactly. Leave the big-headed, light, long drivers in the hands of everyone, and change something that will only affect the pros and better players. Makes sense to me. More sense than, say, limiting clubhead volume to 300cc. Pros might lose a little, but average golfers would lose out substantially if we all played with "tiny" clubheads.

    All I know is there are less rounds played now than before and USGA wants to make the game harder,

    I don't believe either of those are true, and we can't just make stuff up here at TST when we want to suit our arguments.

    i agree that recreational golfers are who the USGA should be watching out for. Golf is difficult enough for us in the first place and even with all the new technology, average handicaps have not decreased. Will reverting to older technology make better players because they are forced to be more accurate? Hardly.

    Again, changing the grooves will have essentially ZERO effect on the average golfer. None. Zilch. Zip. Nada.

    It's got more chance of driving people away from the game because they are even farther away from playing like their favorite pro.

    If the USGA study results are accurate (and, as a scientist, I see no reason to doubt them), then the grooves change will make the pros play a bit more like you. You can't suck the ball back from the fairway let alone the rough. The pros can. After the grooves change, if it goes through, they won't from the rough either.

    The new bombers are hardly dominating the Tour.

    No, but the mentality is.

  13. JP Bouffard says:

    Erik makes many good points. But like I said in the article, the idea that changing the grooves will change their "driving habits" is at present just a hypothesis. Whether it happens or not remains to be seen. They may just simply go on playing bomb and gouge anyway, and still keep winning this way. All other things being equal, a long hitter will always have an advantage, and this is how it should be.

    One thing complicating all of this is the fidelity of the USGA's statistical analysis--I left this out of the article, but it's really quite important. Remember, they looked at correlation coefficients between dollars earned and fairways hit rankings. Correlations don't prove anything about _cause_. Also, the stat of fairways hit is not exactly a highly quantitative thing. Missing a fairway by a foot means the same thing as missing it by 40 yards. The statistical analysis of fairways hit through the years can't control for differences in fairway widths over the years (they've been getting narrower, I believe) or the depth of rough (also tougher in recent years). Finally, the correlation they used was with _dollar earnings_ rank, which can be effected by the distribution of prize money in tournaments, how much players choose to play, etc. The change in correlation could simply reflect that younger players--who usually happen to be the longer hitters--are hungrier and in need of money, and they simply play more events today than they did in the past. Or, the opposite: money is so good and purses so high, the older, more accurate players are able to play less often and still earn enough to pay their bills.

    In short, there are many things having nothing to do with spin that could underlie the change in the correlation between driving accuracy and dollars earned on tour.

    I've read the groove study, including a hard copy from the USGA containing the technical appendices, etc. It's extremely good, and I admit that my comments are of the "contrarian" or "Devil's advocate" type; certainly this rule change should cause some noticable changes in golf shots we see on tour. But whether it's going to re-engineer scoring on tour or bring back an emphasis on control is much harder to predict.

  14. JP Bouffard says:

    Other sports experiment extensively with rule changes. One option that the USGA and PGAT could consider is trying the groove thing for 2 years, then trying an opposite proposal, such as using a markedly rolled back golf ball, maybe coupled with _decreased_ rough and wider fairways. These two approaches (the groove thing and rolling back the ball) represent two different suggestions I've heard aimed at restoring the importance of accuracy in golf, and are based on very different theories about the cause of "bomb and gouge."

    Both could be tried, and then we could get feedback from tour players and statisticians and see which, if any, of the changes had the desired effect.

    I realize that golf, like baseball, is steeped in tradition, and to do this sort of tinkering seems almost impossible.

    But it would be a good idea.

  15. Mike says:

    Rough is rather expensive to grow, takes a long time, and the course must still be somewhat playable outside of the one week a PGA Tour event comes to town.

    The rough seems to grow quite cheaply on my local course. Mind you, it's not manicured and lovingly looked after like on tour. Not working at a course I wouldn't know, but I'm sure members would be understanding and proud to have their course a challenge to Pros by letting the rough go a little bit more just a couple of times a year before an event. They probably expect to spend a lot in getting the course ready, whether they cut the rough or not.

    The PGA Tour and the USGA are separate entities altogether. Get that right first.

    Which is why I was asking if the tour didn't want to make courses slightly tougher for some reason, since the USGA do with their US Open.

    Second, did you see how much Angel Cabrera spun the ball from the "first cut" (i.e. "light rough") on the 15th hole at the U.S. Open?

    Yes, first cut..wasn't that only 1.5"? I do like the graded rough they had, 1.5", 2.5", 5"? So punished the more inaccurate they are. I like to see a challenge rather than a slog, so think having the first cut not too harsh is good. The fact so many Pros that week seemed to not play the course and went into the deeper rough a lot was their own fault. I'm not sure everyone wants all PGA tour events to be as tough as the US Open, but I do feel making courses slightly tougher in light of the calibre of the modern player and equipment is an alternative worth considering. Butch commentated he liked the tougher fairway rough, although that it was a bit much having such fast greens and tough greenside rough as well.

    Terry Koehler of EIDOLON made an interesting point that it was puzzling why after the practice rounds that so many Pros didn't alter their play (or were unable to pull off the shots) to keep it on the fairway after surely figuring out that deep rough left them no kind of quality shot. Also mentions:

    http://www.thewedgeguy.com/another-lesson-from-the-us-open/

    In the Open, only 15 players hit better than 60% of the fairways. Fifteen ! And only 39 hit half the fairways ! That’s deplorable. And in case you think that the U.S. Open fairways were that much tougher, to date this year on the entire PGA Tour, only 30 players are hitting it in the fairway better than one out of three holes!

  16. Greg Little says:

    Just a question...

    Does ever golfer that plays golf have the space in their budget to go out and buy all brand new irons and wedges just because the USGA wants to impose the groove rules? Have you looked at your local golf store lately. I have, and I didn't see even one set of irons with V-grooves... they are all square grooves now.

  17. Does ever[y] golfer that plays golf have the space in their budget to go out and buy all brand new irons and wedges just because the USGA wants to impose the groove rules?

    That's irrelevant. The vast majority of golfers will be grandfathered in, and for those who play competitively and at a high level, I would guess that most (never say "every") would see new irons as a small portion of their yearly golf budget.

  1. [... In 1989, Mark Calcavecchia hit a remarkable golf shot into the 18th green at Royal Troon, setting up a birdie that lead to an eventual victory in the ...]

  2. [... In 1989, Mark Calcavecchia hit a remarkable golf shot into the 18th green at Royal Troon, setting up a birdie that lead to an eventual victory in the ...]

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