When the USGA outlined its plan to roll out the "groove rule" in 2009, changing the specifications on the size of grooves to, in part, limit the amount of spin they could impart on a golf ball from the rough, the intent was for it to be implemented in a staggered fashion. In 2010, the professional tours adopted the rule as a "condition of competition," and 2014 was set as the year for elite amateur events to follow.
Yet a survey of 34 of 42 major golf associations recently surveyed by Golf Digest said they won't use the new groove rule in their state and regional tournaments this summer.
Golf association executives cited two primary reasons why they are in a holding pattern regarding implementing the rule in events: The financial burden on players to purchase new clubs remains significant, and creating a process to check grooves at tournaments is daunting.
"The impact of this decision [to wait] is that Kansas Golf Association competitors of all ages and abilities will not be required to purchase new wedges in order to play," said Casey Old, the association's director of rules/competitions. Hawaii's Paul Ogawa shared similar sentiments, citing a fear that enacting the rule could reduce the number of contestants in the state's competitions.
In hockey and lacrosse, referees can quickly inspect players' sticks to see if they comply with the rules. Checking grooves poses more difficulty: The naked eye cannot distinguish between what's conforming and non-conforming and buying equipment that would accomplish that task would be cost-prohibitive.
"Enforcing it is going to be the hard step in this process," said Chris Byrne, of the Idaho Golf Association, whose Men's Amateur championship nevertheless intended to abide by the groove rule. "We'll advise players but ultimately it's their responsibility under Rule 6-1."