The R&A is proposing changes to golf's equipment rules that seek to restore the historic importance of driving accuracy in the game.
The proposed rules changes to club face groove markings are based on extensive research into the effect of such markings on spin generation for balls hit from the rough. Club face markings have been observed to significantly increase spin from the rough compared to previous eras when there was a greater premium on driving accuracy.
Announcing the proposed club face markings rule change, R&A Director of Rules and Equipment Standards, David Rickman said:
"We invest heavily in the science that informs our decision making and there is clear evidence that certain club face groove markings increase the amount of spin that highly skilled players can achieve from the rough, especially when striking thin urethane-covered golf balls".
"By limiting the amount of spin that can be generated for shots from the rough, we hope to place greater emphasis on accuracy and the skill required to recover from the rough. It is a matter of re-establishing a proper balance to the game and ensuring that skill remains the dominant element of success", added Rickman.
The new limits proposed for groove cross-sectional area and groove edge sharpness would apply to all clubs (except driving clubs and putters) manufactured after 1 January 2010, but the rules could be introduced for competitions restricted to highly skilled players (via a condition of competition) from 1 January 2009. A five month consultation period with equipment manufacturers now gets underway that will also help determine when the new rules would come into effect for ordinary handicap golfers.
However, a concessionary period of at least 10 years is anticipated, recognising the costs involved in changing equipment.
Also announced today, The R&A is to consult golf equipment manufacturers on changes to the Rules that would permit new adjustable features in woods and irons. These proposals offer the potential of extending the playing benefits of club fitting to all golfers without diminishing the challenge of the game. Adjustable features, in addition to weight adjustment that is permitted for all clubs, have been allowed in the Rules of Golf for putters since 1992.
Consultation periods with manufacturers on both sets of proposed rules changes are time limited to allow adopted rules to feature in the 2008 revision of the Rules of Golf.
David Rickman, Director Rules & Equipment Standards
Tel: (44) 1334 460000