*Max Adler, accomplished competitive player and Golf Digest Staff Writer is embarking on his first year of golf with the new grooves. Periodically, we'll let you in on what he's learning and how the change impacts his game. Here's a report from the front lines of U.S. Open Local Qualifying: *
Now with a tournament under my belt, my hope was to have a clearer idea on how new conforming grooves truly perform. A U.S. Open Local Qualifier is a good testing ground, because the state golf associations that run them traditionally firm up greens and tuck flagsticks to sift the worthy handful from the rabble of wannabes. In typical proportions, my event at Shorehaven Golf Club in Norwalk, Conn. had 73 players fighting for just five spots.
The two other players in my group, both assistant pros, confided that this was also their first competitive round with weaker grooves. However, I can say with confidence that it cost none of us even a single shot. The nuances of spin differential were washed away in a storm that caused the field two delays for thunder and lightning. Each time play resumed it was into strong rain, strong wind, and greens that miraculously puddled in only certain spots. Full-swings produced sopping divots that exploded like cookie-batter and left pitchmarks like craters. Needless to say, making the ball check was not an issue.
At the risk of sounding like a whiner (when you card 80 [T-29] it can be hard not to) I won't offer my opinion as to whether the tournament should've been postponed. After all, medalist Colin Amaral from Dobbs Ferry, N.Y., hung tough and shot 70 (-1). Though I did feel for Jeff Bishop from Novia Scotia, who made a long drive to play in conditions that no one ever practices in. "This is ridiculous," I overheard Bishop lament in French accent, our group catching his on the tee of a 229-yard par 3--where I would swallow my pride and hit driver into the gale. Bishop went on, "I practice, I get my game into good shape coming into this, and then in this [weather] I explode." Jeff shot 79.
Even though I learned nothing, the real question going forward is whether I'll continue to play these grooves. There isn't another event this summer where I'll need newly conforming clubs (not even the state Open, which awards prize money). Until 2014, a low-handicapper that uses new grooves in any amateur event on the national, state or club level will be giving an advantage to his competitors. But my new chrome wedges are so shiny and pretty and I'm starting to get used to them. Am I really so neurotic as to buy another set and change them in and out depending on the day? After wasting $150 on my U.S. Open entry fee, my inclination right now is to keep my money. But once the sun comes out and greens get hard and fast, that could change.