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. Last month, Max qualified for and competed in the Connecticut State Amateur Championship, using irons and wedges that featured the new groove and presumably were less effective in certain situations than those used by most of the other competitors. As he readies to compete in qualifying for the U.S. Amateur next week, here's another of the lessons he's learned about competing with the new grooves: Never try to hit a wedge farther than you can, even the new ones.
It's tempting if the yardage is only a few yards more than your stock distance, but it's not worth it. After a weather delay during the Connecticut Amateur, I momentarily forgot my own wisdom and selected my 50-degree wedge after my laser-device eyed the flagstick at 122 yards (my 50-degree normally flies 120 yards). With a fresh coating of moisture on the greens, I proceeded to hit the shot I thought would be dead now that I'm playing the new-groove wedges. My shot pitched six feet short of the hole, then ripped back some 25 feet before catching the false-front apron and trickling back another 20 yards into the fairway. So yes, even with the new groove wedges it's possible to swing too hard and steep and experience that most distasteful sight of a GIR that reconsidered.
However, the tragicomedy of the shot did at least break the silent atmosphere. My opponent in the round of 16, Matt Smith, who would ultimately defeat me 3&2, commiserated and offered that he was also playing the newly conforming wedges even though they were not required for the event. Smith, a First-Team All New-England rising senior at the University of Hartford, said, "Yeah, Jerry Kelly is an alum and so we get hooked up with equipment from Cleveland and Srixon. We got the new wedges this spring, and I figure I might as well learn to play with them now because we're all going to have to switch later."
Smith isn't going to wait to learn his lessons. Of course, I had just learned one myself: Next time, choke down on the pitching wedge.