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In the grooves

Grooves loophole needs some clarification

By John Davis  
     An out-of-court settlement between Ping Golf and the game’s governing bodies in the early 1990s created a loophole allowing Eye2 irons, with square grooves, to be used even though new rules essentially have banned the configuration on the PGA Tour.

    In essence, the clubs are allowed under a “grandfather clause,” and have created controversy on the tour, which issued a statement Jan. 29, 2010 saying it could solve the problem by imposing a “local rule.”

“Leading up to implementations, we have been aware that under the USGA Rules of Golf, the pre-1990 clubs would be allowed and that there was the potential that some players might choose to use them,” the statement read.
"We will monitor this situation as we move forward and under our tournament regulations, we do have the ability to make a local rule which would not allow the clubs."
     Phoenix-based Ping might be in position to make that difficult if it so desires. It has received considerable publicity as a result of the controversy, and the value of its vintage irons has climbed. Players who are using the approved clubs also could make things sticky if they choose to pursue the matter so they can continue to keep them in their golf bags.

      For the record, here are clarifications of two commonly misunderstood (and often misreported) issues involving iron grooves:

     1. The Ping ruling did not allow square grooves. They had been approved years earlier, but Ping founder Karsten Solheim was the first to identify the potential and created irons taking advantage of the technology. Instead, the ruling addressed the amount of space allowed between the grooves. Ping agreed to change that space, but existing Eye2 irons (those made before April 1, 1990) were grandfathered in as conforming. Serial numbers identify which ones fit into that category.

     2. The new rules regarding grooves did not ban U-grooves (a.k.a. square grooves). Instead, they reduced the total volume of the grooves and the sharpness of the leading edges, which makes it impractical to design new clubs with U-grooves, . That's why new  clubs are being designed with V-grooves, which take better advantage of the approved space to create sharper edges.