Hot List Summit Day 2: Splitting hairs

October 18, 2010

LITCHFIELD PARK, Ariz. -- The scientist panel meetings at the Golf Digest Hot List Summit came to a close at the end of day two, and this year I'm proud to say we ended up making it through every prepared question for every different category and still sent our Ph.D. friends to the airport on time. All in all, our eggheads didn't disagree with each other on a lot this time around, so we were able to stay on schedule and cover a lot of ground (even though it's popcorn-munching fun to veer off topic once in a while and watch them battle over the different interpretations of a product's finite element analysis in a language that's completely foreign to mere mortals).

The one topic that took longer to get through than any of the others this morning was groove technology in wedges. Since the implementation of the USGA's new groove rule (stricter limits to the total volume and edge sharpness of the grooves in irons and wedges), equipment companies have had to dig deep to come up with ways to create grooves that still generate spin from other than perfectly clean lies. As a result, the groove landscape of 2011 will be very diverse and some companies are promoting grooves that are narrow and deep to help channel more debris, while others prefer to go the wider and shallower route to allow the grooves to be closer together. Which is the better mouse trap? After much back and forth, the consensus among our geniuses was that it depends on what kind of ball you're playing with and the conditions you're playing in. Are you in the Pacific Northwest, using distance balls and having to dig out of deep, wet rough on a regular basis? Stick with the deepest grooves you can find. Do you play mostly desert golf and favor softer-covered balls? Then go with wider and shallower grooves.

In most cases, the benefits of one technology story over another are so minute that you're literally splitting hairs. But as our most distinguished science panelist (he shall remained unidentified for this purpose, since I'm not sure his comment was on the record) so wisely said, "It's like circumcision: Every little bit counts."


John Axe, Ph.D. and ball-club interaction specialist, explains the impact of striking a ball above the equator with a putter face. Photo by J.D. Cuban

-- Stina Sternberg