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Roll Back the Grooves

The Masters of the Golf Universe, those wizened characters who sit in judgement on all that is golf in the name of the USGA and the R&A have decided to change equipment standards as regards grooves. Beginning January 1, 2010 clubs will need to conform to a new standard. ” The objective of this change is to limit the effectiveness of grooves on shots from the rough to the effect of the traditional V-groove design, without mandating the use of only
V-grooves. The new regulations permit club designers to vary groove width, depth,
spacing and shape to create clubs that conform to this groove rule. ” So says the notification to manufacturers released August 5th. I find it fascinating that they want the performance of V-grooves without resurrecting the lawsuit filed by Ping in 1990, the last time these august bodies attempted to control grooves. What they plan to do is control the volume of the groove and the sharpness of the edges. Hopefully this will mean I won’t need to change balls after every full wedge shot because less sharp grooves mean less cover shaved off the ball.

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The Masters of the Golf Universe, those wizened characters who sit in judgement on all that is golf in the name of the USGA and the R&A have decided to change equipment standards as regards grooves.  Beginning January 1, 2010 clubs will need to conform to a new standard. " The objective of this change is to limit the effectiveness of grooves on shots from the rough to the effect of the traditional V-groove design, without mandating the use of only
V-grooves.
 

The new regulations permit club designers to vary groove width, depth,
spacing and shape to create clubs that conform to this groove rule. "  So says the notification to manufacturers released August 5th.  I find it fascinating that they want the performance of V-grooves without resurrecting the lawsuit filed by Ping in 1990, the last time these august bodies attempted to control grooves. What they plan to do is control the volume of the groove and the sharpness of the edges.  Hopefully this will mean I won’t need to change balls after every full wedge shot because less sharp grooves mean less cover shaved off the ball. 

“Our research shows that the rough has become less of a challenge for the highly skilled professional and that driving accuracy is now less of a key factor for success,” said USGA senior technical director Dick Rugge, who announced the rules change Aug. 5. “We believe that these changes will increase the challenge of the game at the tour level, while having a very small effect on the play of most golfers.”  Thus the USGA believes they have adopted a change that will have noticable effects only on the elite 1% or so of all golfers.  I read some of the test results and have to admit that I find them quite intriguing. Using both PGA and "developmental tour" players tests were conducted using a 5 iron, 8 iron, and SW using U and V grooves in various lengths of rough.  Cleverly, the designations were "light", "medium", and "heavy".  I just so admire scientific originality.

 
 

Surprisingly the 5 iron shots with the U-groove clubs produced more spin from the "light" rough than that produced on shots from the fairway.  I am too far removed from my book learning to explain the why behind that finding.  Witchcraft perhaps?  What makes more sense is that the U-grooves do indeed put significantly more spin on the ball from all manner of rough than did the V-groove club.  Quite unsurprising actually.  What I do question is what ball they were using, something not stated in the results.  Nor do they make it clear, or I just didn’t read correctly which is an affliction I suffer from more frequently than in the past, whether the V-grooved clubs are the new proposed clubs or the actual old V-grooved clubs.  I have to think they represent the old version so that the data are more likely to produce the results they were looking to obtain. 

The rules apply to clubs manufactured after Jan. 1, 2010, the same year that the USGA will enforce the new regulations through a condition of competition for the U.S. Open, U.S. Women’s Open and U.S. Senior Open and each of their qualifying events. So  I have 4 sets of wedges which means I’ll only have to purchase 2 or 3 mores sets, enough to last until age 80 by my figures.  If I live longer than that, well maybe I should buy 4 more sets just in case.  They say preparation is the key to success, whoever they happen to be. 

All USGA amateur championships will apply the new regulations through the condition of competition, after Jan. 1, 2014. 

The PGA Tour, European PGA Tour, LPGA, PGA of America and the International Federation of PGA Tours have all indicated their support for the new regulations on grooves. Each of these organizations, as well as the Augusta National Golf Club, have told the USGA and the R&A that they intend to adopt the condition of competition, applying the rules for their competitions, beginning on Jan. 1, 2010.

Clubs manufactured prior to Jan. 1, 2010 that conform to current regulations will continue to be considered conforming to the rules of golf until at least 2024. These clubs may be used for establishment and maintenance of a USGA handicap index.  This gives those of us hacks who just play for fun some time to ignore this change.  Come to think of it, since this condition states "at least until 2024"  we may get more time. Perhaps I should stock up on even more sets, open an ebay store and sell U-groove clubs on the oil can finish market.  Hmm  I need to ponder this a while longer.

Reactions amoung manufacturers were mixed; “We are very pleased to see the ruling bodies have carefully considered whether rules changes intended to address a perceived issue at tour events should be applied simultaneously to tour professionals, elite amateurs and other golfers, and ultimately opted to acknowledge those differences by separating their actions with respect to each group,” said Steve McCracken, Callaway’s senior executive vice president.  I particularly like the use of the phrase "perceived issue".  We’ve all seen that scores have plummeted over the last few years, to where scores of 30 under par are common place.  After all, at this years Masters 19 players were under par after 36 holes, an obvious travesty foist upon us unsuspecting mooks who still believed that the game of golf was difficult.  Had I but known the culprit responsible for this assault upon average scores was the result of the grooves in the club face, I would have returned to my Wilson Sam Snead Blue Ridge irons years ago.  "perceived issue"…. nice phrase Mr. McCracken.

John Solheim, president and CEO of Ping whose father brought the suit against the USGA in 1990, let it be known he is dissappointed and needs to study the issue further.  “I already know it moves the rule book backward,” Solheim said. “How does this help the average golfer enjoy the game more?”  Why Mr. Solheim, this will make all those old classic courses more viable as major tournament sites.  No longer will length be an issue, because if you miss the fairway you won’t be able to hold the green on your next shot.  Augusta National will be able to reverse all the changes endorsed by Hootie Johnson and return the course to the state intended by its founder and designer.  The Masters of April 2010 will no longer need rough because the new grooves won’t spin the ball as much from the fairway resulting in higher scores.  No more 16 under par winning this tournament and besmisching history before our very eyes, no sir ree bob.  Fun?  What oh what are you talking about sir.  Golf is a game meant to reduce one’s vocabulary to a series of four letter words, expelled by red faced overweight cigar chomping men several seconds away from exploding their heads all over the green.  What fun could it be to hit a shot from the rough and have it stop on the green. 

Mr. Solheim’s father is spinning in his grave.  U-grooves will do that to a soul.  Just ask the USGA.

 

 

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  1. Ed

    Sep 9, 2008 at 2:40 am

    No. This is all BS to me. The bottom line is that we dont even see the ball checking up on the green as much as it use to. I remember in the 90s as well as early 2000s you would see guys back spin the balls off of the greens. It was rediculous. The bottom line is that all of this groove stuff is alot to do about nothing. It makes the PGA look like its doing somthing. The real rpbolem with the modern game is exactly what the article says is “makiing it more challanging at the pro level but not at the amature level” (is that possible, NO)- that is that driving and rough play dont matter as much any more in regards to scoreing and wining. This is true but it is not a good thing. I want a golfer who can hit the big club straight- and is rewarded for doing so- that is I want a rough that penalizes.

    The reason why the game is boring is because there is no premium for accuracy off of the tee and no penalty for misses. If there was you would have a much more interesting and diverse game. Basically I am sick of watching them play 8 million yard parking lots!

  2. bobsuruncle

    Aug 11, 2008 at 10:49 am

    Let’s see, there are 3 main aspects of the golf game – long game (driving), medium game (approach), and short game (wedge + putting).

    Jack Nicholas argues that today’s driving length is killing the game and reducing old courses to “Par 3 pitch-and-putts”. He wants something done to the ball to limit the distance it flies.

    It appears here that the “rulers” of the game are more focused on the short game. They already make the pros putt on ice, and now they want to control the “wedge game”.

    I think I prefer Jack’s assessment of the ills of the game. I think it unfair that someone with a slower swing speed should be able to drive it past someone with a higher swing speed (think Tiger), thanks to modern equipment. And I think the short game should separate the men from the boys. Take the long game away from some of today’s young guns (bombers) and let’s see how they fair against the veterans, who invariably have better course management and short games (if they haven’t developed the yips).

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Equipment

2020 TaylorMade P770 irons: Distance and precision redefined

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New 2020 TaylorMade P770 irons are here, and with them, a reminder that every club in your bag has a purpose.

A driver is designed to go as far as possible, wedges are designed to be versatile precision instruments, and iron sets are built for both. The new 2020 TaylorMade P770 irons from TaylorMade bring together the distance of the extremely popular P790 with the precision of a midsized player cavity to offer distance and control to an iron unlike TaylorMade has ever produced.

2020 TaylorMade P770

2020 TaylorMade P770 6-iron. Cavity view.

TaylorMade P770 irons: The origin story

The story of the P770 starts with two clubs—the P760 and the P790. Now, if my math is correct, the combination of the two clubs would actually create the 775, but in the world of irons, that model number was taken over a decade ago by another OEM, and if we’re being honest, 770 sounds better anyways.

2020 TaylorMade P770, TaylorMade P790 comparison.

2020 TaylorMade P770, TaylorMade P790 comparison.

Let’s start with the P790 and its ability to infiltrate the golf bags of players of all skill levels. According to TaylorMade’s fitting database, the 790 is a club that can be found in the bags of players from +4 handicaps all the way up to golfers looking to break 100.

What makes the P790 so functional and appealing to so many golfers starts with its looks and ends with its performance. The P790 has the clean appearance of a blade iron from the back, and from address, it maintains sharper line associated with a  players club.

But off the clubface, or should I say all over the clubface, you get ball speed and launch conditions normally reserved for a much larger game improvement club. This iron helped redefine what is now known as the “players distance” category, and whether you consider that title an oxymoron or not, it’s impossible to argue with its popularity.

Then we have the P760, TaylorMade’s first combo iron set, which combined the power of SpeedFoam-filled longer irons with the precision of single-piece forged short irons. These irons again found their way into the golf bags of mid-handicaps to players all over the professional tours thanks to their ability to offer extra forgiveness and launch in longer clubs while still maintaining a small player’s look and preferred feel.

Regardless of skill, one of the biggest factors in the playability of any iron relies on a golfer’s ability to create speed, launch, spin, and angle of descent—the below video featuring our own Brian Knudson testing the P790 Ti is the perfect example of how an iron with strong lofts, for example, can launch higher and descend at an angle to make them playable when you combine the right technologies.

The ultimate design goal of the P770 was to combine the best of both these irons into a small, fast, playable package using every technology available to the engineers and designers at TaylorMade. This iron is about precision without sacrificing distance.

If you are a golfer looking for maximum workability and shotmaking control that puts less of a premium on distance, then the P7MB or P7MC is probably more up your ally, but if distance is still a big part of your decision-making process for a set of irons, then buckle up.

The technology

A look inside the construction of the P770

A simplistic way to describe the P770 would be to call it a shrunk-down version of the 790, but doing that would not give justice to the actual engineering that went into this design. The reason is, you can’t just shrink down a golf club and expect it to perform the same as a larger club, because not only are the mass properties different, but trying to maintain additional ball speed would be like expecting a smaller trampoline to bounce you as high as a larger one with bigger springs—the physics don’t add up.

“Designed to deliver P790-like performance in a smaller package, the all-new P770 leverages forged hollow body construction to pack as much distance and forgiveness as possible into a compact player’s shape.” – Matt Bovee, Product Creation

From address, and looking at the sole and toe profile, the P770 has a much stronger resemblance to the previous P760 than the 790, but from the back and from a technology standpoint, its got the guts of the P790.

The key technologies are

  • A SpeedFoam-supported forged 4140 high-speed steel face attached to a soft forged 8620 carbon steel body. Since the hosel is part of the forged body, you get the full lie and loft adjustability of a forged club along with the ball speed of a larger one. The secondary benefit of SpeedFoam is it creates an iron that feels extremely solid while being a multipiece construction
  • The other part of the speed story is the Thru Slot in the sole which helps shots hit lower on the face retain more ball speed and helps create extra launch. This technology runs from the 3-7 irons.
  • Speaking of launch, the new P770 has 46 grams of tungsten in the 3-7 irons positioned as low and as far back as possible towards the toe to boost MOI and launch in the longer clubs while precisely locating the center of gravity.
  • The final piece of the puzzle that helps with both distance and distance control is the Progressive Inverted Cone Technology or IVT. It is positioned closer to the toe in the longer irons to help with common mishits and moves higher and more heel ward into the shorter clubs. This keeps ball speeds variances as consistent as possible through the set.

More photos and discussion in the forums.

Choose your own P700 Series adventure

This is the part where the whole iron series really excels. For a long time, it used to be OEMs would release a number of iron sets that catered to various golfers but didn’t really have any cross over potential as far as building combo sets because of the large differences between designs. To counter this, they would often design exclusive combo sets either catered to better players or to higher handicaps/slower speed players with game improvement irons paired with hybrid long irons.

From the beginning and by design, the entire P700 series has been built to be custom combo’ed for any golfer—an impressive design feat. This allows players of varying ability with different swing and player traits to get exactly what they need out of different parts of their set. They have even gone as far to make sure that no matter how someone is looking to build their set, they can get looks, offset, bounce, and performance to match up from club to club—they even have an easy-to-follow chart!

Pricing, availability, and specs

The TaylorMade P770 irons will be available for pre-order starting August 14th and will be be available in retail shops starting September 4th.

They will be available from 3iron to pitching wedge in right and left-handed with an A wedge option available to right-handed players only. An 8 piece set starts at $1399 (174.88 per club) with KBS Tour steel shafts and Golf Pride Z-Grip grey and black as stock.

P770 Stock Specs

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2020 Mizuno E21 wedges: High performance reimagined

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New design, new construction, and a new way to look at what a high-performance wedge can be—these are Mizuno E21 wedges.

When talking about new clubs and the technology being utilized by engineers, the conversation eventually turns to mass properties and how adjusting them within the clubhead helps to create higher-launching lower-spinning shots. This is great when talking about drivers and fairway woods, but at the other end of your bag, high-launching, low-spinning shots are the enemy of great wedge play and distance control.

The key to hitting lower-launching, higher-spinning wedge shots is making contact below the center of gravity lower on the face. To help players achieve these optimal launch conditions, the Mizuo E21 utilizes multipiece construction to place the center of gravity higher in the head than ever before.

More photos and discussion in the forums. 

Mizuno E21 wedge technology

Mass properties play a massive role in the performance of any club. By design, wedges are the heaviest full swing clubs in the bag. This gives designers more mass to move around. To get the most of the Mizuno E21’s performance, the focus was to relocate as much mass higher and deeper in the head without sacrificing both looks and feel. The only way to do this was by using a hollow body construction.

The E21 wedge brings together a 1025 Grain Flow forged boron face and hosel with a 431 Stainless steel back, this helps the wedge maintain the soft and solid feel Mizuno is known for while also increasing groove durability. Don’t think that because a wedge is packed with technology it makes it a club meant for higher handicap golfers either—any golfer can benefit from improved wedge technology, the same way we can all benefit from hitting higher launching, lower spinning drivers.

More photos and discussion in the forums. 

The new E21 wedges even offer the exact same, if not thinner appearance from address than the Mizuno T20’s even though the back of each wedge looks extremely different—again, just like with drivers, something that looks different is different for a reason.

Soles designed for versatility

Beyond the new and improved mass shifting the E21 wedges provide, the most important part of the wedge is the sole, and Mizuno R&D pulled out all the stops when configuring the soles of these wedges to fit a wide variety of players.

They come in both a narrow and wide sole option, but unlike with irons where a wide sole is generally reserved for game improvement clubs, the wide sole models of the E21 have been configured for maximum versatility. Mizuno is not the only OEM offering versatile wider sole wedges, Callaway has the “X” grind, and Titleist with the low bounce “K”, to give you a few examples.

The wide sole E21’s have a lot of heel and toe relief along with a lot of front and back camber to keep the leading edge closer to the ground for those tight lies around the greens.

Mizuno Hydroflow Micro Grooves

Just like with last year’s release of the T20 wedges, instead of using traditional laser etching parallel to the milled grooves, Mizuno engineers took the concept of tread from high-performance tires and went perpendicular to the grooves and parallel to the direction the ball moves up the face to channel moisture away.

This directional tread has proven to increase spin on shots especially in conditions with moisture up to 1,200 RPM on a 60-yard shot. It’s not just about spin either: the more the friction created also means more control on launch angle and less of a “floating” ball flight. That’s how those low flying “zippers” really zip!

The other part of this groovy tale has to do with the reconfiguration of the grooves. Just like with the T20, the lowest groove on the E21 wedges has been shortened and centered. This puts it closer to the leading edge without having it disorient the look of the club from address and making it appear that the heel or toe is thinner on one side.

By bringing together the new CG placement with leading groove technology and reconfigured soles, Mizuno is once again changing the way players think about wedge performance.

More photos and discussion in the forums. 

Price, availability, and specs

The E21 wedges will be right-hand only and available this October with the exact date upcoming and priced at $200 per club.

The stock shaft is the KBS HI Rev 110 Wedge flex in black ion finish, along with a Lamkin ST Hybrid grip

Mizuno E21 wedge loft and bounce availability

More photos and discussion in the forums. 

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2020 TaylorMade Spider FCG putter: Blade performance, mallet forgiveness

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2020 taylormade spider putter cover

If you love the feel of a blade putter but struggle with alignment and need the extra stability only a mallet can provide, then this could be the putter you have been waiting for—the all-new 2020 TaylorMade Spider FCG (Forward Center of Gravity).

Although the new Spider FCG doesn’t look like any Spider ever imagined by the putter team at TaylorMade, it is a Spider through and through thanks to its multi-material design, and it’s built to offer the extra stability synonymous with the Spider name.

2020 TaylorMade Spider FCG putter: It’s what’s inside that counts

The key to the new Spider FCG putter is the distribution of mass relative to the face along with the extreme heel and toe weighting to boost MOI. This isn’t a small tweak either, to offer you a direct comparison, the center of gravity of the standard Spider X is 3 times further back in the head compared to the new Spider FCG. This is why most mallet putters, including the Spider X from TaylorMade, rely on various hosel configurations to fit a player’s stroke—and even then they can only get so much toe hang out of these designs.

Tech/fitting note: The reason we don’t see many high MOI (low and back center of gravity) putters that also have more than around 30 degrees of toe hang is that the nature of high MOI designs makes them harder to open and close relative to square. For someone with a more gated stroke, this means a high MOI style of putter requires more manipulation to get back to square at impact oftentimes results in the face being left open causing a “push.”

To get the center of gravity as forward as possible, TaylorMade did a number of things to the weighting properties of the head, including using more than 100 grams of tungsten weight in the heel and toe of the putter and positioning the interchangeable head weight directly behind the face. The most clever design trick was removing as much weight as possible from the back of the head, but maintaining the shape from address.

“We tried to think of the top and rear portions of the putter as a canopy. It’s rigid, allows us to create a long alignment tool, but takes up a very small portion of the putter head’s total mass” – Bill Price

The face also plays a big role since TM is using a new CU29 PureRoll insert, which offers all the same roll enhancing properties as other inserts in the line except for the fact it is constructed of pure copper and weighs 25 grams, making it the heaviest insert TaylorMade has ever created.

This putter is all about TaylorMade expanding available options to golfers, because the Spider FCG offers greater toe hang than any other putter in the Spider family ever at 46 degrees (with the slant next), which puts it directly in line with the TP Soto at 47 degrees. It also comes with two other hosel options to give players with a less gated stroke a better fitting putter—while still offering a longer alignment line and more forgiveness.

“In developing Spider FCG, we sought insights from many of the top players on TOUR. We compiled that information to construct a clean and traditional mallet shape that performs in a non-traditional way. The result is an intelligently designed high-MOI mallet that’s built for golfers who have an arced putting stroke. Forward CG placement lets the toe release freely like a blade, while the mallet shape and perimeter weighting help maintain the signature Spider family forgiveness.” – Bill Price; Product Creation Putters and Wedges

Now Speaking to alignment, the Spider FCG has what TaylorMade is calling TruePath T-Sightline. It combines the perpendicular alignment from the face with the long line pointed at the target. Giving this a technological name might seem like a bit of a stretch, but when talking with TaylorMade’s Bill Price about the top’s contrast he noted

“White is the very bright to our eyes and by creating high contrast along the front of the putter it helps players set up more square to their putting line regardless of eye dominance.”

It’s been proven time after time that player alignment is very much attributed to their eye-dominance; some players use the leading edge while others use longer alignment lines on the top of the putter—the FCG with TruePath is offering both.

Price, availability, and specs

The Spider FCG will be available at retail and online starting September 4th with the retail price of $350.

It is offered in three different neck styles to help golfers varying amounts of face rotation in their stroke to find the right model

  • The L-Neck (aka Plumbers Neck) with 25° of toe-hang
  • Short slant next with 46° of toe-hang, which puts it in line with most blade putters on the market
  • Single bend which is close to face-balanced for those with limited face rotation

It will come stock with a KBS Stepless Black CT putter shaft along with a Super Stroke Pistol 1.0 black and white grip, with other grip options available through custom order.  The putter will come in both right and left-handed and will come in the stock lengths of 33”, 34”, and 35”.

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