Lucy Locket
By Lucy Locket

In the past few months you may have heard some consternation coming from the professional ranks about the new regulations governing the shape and size of golf club grooves.

Although it would be easy to dismiss this as being about only the elite touring players the new rules will have consequences for every golfer eventually and you may start to notice the changes quite soon.

The new rules deal with groove volume. This basically means the limits on grooves on all clubs, excluding drivers and putters, are going to be reduced and they will become shallower and narrower.

The sharpness of the edges of the grooves will also be more stringently regulated on all clubs will a loft of 25 degrees or more (roughly your 5 iron through to your wedges) which will also help to preserve your golf balls for slightly longer.

The aim of the changes is to make it more difficult to spin the ball from the rough and so increase the difference between playing an approach from the fairway or the long stuff. So as well as checking your grooves you might also want to get some practice in with the driver as well!

A phrase you are going to here more of is 'Condition of Competition' irons and wedges and these are clubs where the grooves will conform to the new regulations. Here are the three important dates to remember:

1 January 2010:

This is the first important date as the PGA Tour, European Tour and other top level tour players must use 'Condition of Competition' clubs from this date. Everyone else, unless specified otherwise, can use clubs with the current non-conforming grooves.

1 January 2011:

All new clubs manufactured after this date will need to conform to the new rules and it is expected that all elite professional tours will require players to use clubs that meet the new regulations. You can continue to use your wedges and irons and retailers can still sell non-conforming clubs after this date. However manufacturers may not continue to manufacturer or stock wedges that are not conforming to the Condition of Competition rules.

1 January 2014:

The 'Condition of Competition' regulations are set to be extended to the lower tiers of professional tours and elite amateur events.

1 January 2024:

Still playing with your old clubs? If they are still going, then this will be the time to replace them as the new regulations come into force for every golfer.

What does that all mean for those of us that fall below the level of the professional tour or the elite amateur circuit?

In the immediate aftermath of the first change in 2010 you really don’t need to do very much. Your old clubs will still be fine to use in competition play and bounce games. Theoretically tournament committees could enforce the new rules but the R & A are strongly advising that this does not happen at club level. If you’re in any doubt then check with your organising committee just to give you peace of mind.

If you are buying new clubs then there is a couple of things to consider. If the model you’re buying has been available before January 2010 then it does not need to conform with the rules. If it is a relatively new model then it probably will but older models might not. If you are not playing elite amateur events or planning on using your clubs after 2024 then the rules as they stand will not apply to you.

Those of you who would like to play with the larger, sharper grooves until 2024 should probably stock up on a few sets of wedges in 2010 until the manufacturer's have to stop making them, which we believe they will.

If you are buying a new club that has been launched after 1 January 2011, then it will have to conform to the regulations. Check with the retailer and manufacturer for confirmation and have a good look at the clubhead as some manufacturers are going to be identifying those clubs that confirm to the regulations with some kind of stamp or mark on the hosel or clubhead. Finally, if you’re still not sure then a quick check with the R&A or USGA website will be able to tell you if the new clubs you’re so tempted with are legal or not.

The reason for the staggered introduction of the new rules is so that ordinary golfers aren’t forced to go out and buy a brand new set of clubs. That means club golfers have many year to adjust to the new rules. If you are looking to upgrade or want to experience the clubs of the professional then it’s a simple matter of checking that the new clubs you want confirm to the rules.

The rest of us can sit back and watch the professionals show us the difference the new grooves make!

See our Golf Iron Buying Guide and Wedge Buying Guide for more information.


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