New grooves could bring new life to Augusta's rough

By Tim Guidera - bio | email

AUGUSTA, GA (WTOC) – Spin control has obviously been the biggest story of this golf season.

Just not on the golf course the way it was expected when the PGA Tour adopted new rules regarding club grooves.

"It's a very small adjustment,'' Adam Scott said of the policy prohibiting Tour players from using square-edged grooves beginning this season. "It hasn't been as big as everyone anticipated this year so far.''

That could change this week at and because of Augusta National.

Before, the club's light rough had caused little players concern. But without the benefit of square grooves anymore doubt could begin to compound wayward shots.

"If the greens are firm, it will probably do a lot,'' said six-time Masters champion Jack Nicklaus. "It won't be out of the fairway. But out of that short rough it could make a difference.''

Chipping onto these greens that are so firm with so much slope, it's very hard to get enough spin to control the golf ball," added Scott. "So there could be some impossible chips that were playable with the old grooves.''

And there could be two new scenarios at this Masters: Increased significance for Augusta's rough and a diminished advantage from technology according to savannah club-maker Chip Usher.

"When you had the straight grooves, the old groove," said Usher. "Those grooves tended to penetrate through the grass better and grip the ball better."

But the new grooves Tour players are required to us have a 30-degree angle at the top, leading to a higher degree of uncertainty when grass gets between the ball and club face.

"The ball is going to come out with less spin," said Usher. "It's going to fly crooked and it's probably going to fly farther. And the golfers are going to have a hard time judging that."

The man whose company helped create the groove controversy does not agree that the rule change will mean a coming out party for Augusta's rough.

"What rough," joked John Solheim, president of Ping Golf. "The best player is going to win. Grooves aren't going to make a difference here."

Of course, that could just be his spin on the issue.

"These guys today have never hit a flier," Nicklaus said of a ball that jumps off the club out of the rough and flies farther than expected. "They are going to hit a golf ball and say all off a sudden oh what was that?''

"So that puts a premium back on hitting the fairway," added Scott. "And actually testing all elements of the game.''

"I think the grooves could be a big issue," said Usher. "Something at the end of the tournament, somebody could hit a shot and make double bogey just because of the grooves."

Or the grooves and the rough.

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