U-grooves on wedges give you more spin–the better to stop that ball on the green. Should that be enough to ban them?There has been a number of articles about wedge grooves in the golf publications, specifically comparing V-grooves with U-grooves for effecting ball spin. The USGA recently produced a report about the advantage that U-grooves have over V-grooves for getting the ball out of the rough. This report may be a harbinger of future rulings that result in all U-grooved wedges (and possibly, irons) becoming illegal or non-conforming.
Most irons are made using a cast process, which involves wax molds. You can see this process for yourself if you visit Ping’s manufacturing facility in Phoenix, AZ. Over the past twenty years, the casting of clubs has benefited from the use of computer-based milling and robotics that maximize groove size, specifically on wedges.
Mizuno’s TP forged wedges have square grooves and Titleist’ Spin Milled wedges also have square grooves. The grooves are stamped in and then milled to achieve the U shape.
In a nutshell, the square or U-grooves have more volume than V-grooves (the way a square has twice the area of a triangle). The additional volume does something when the grooves strike a ball, especially from the rough. This “something’ is more noticeable when the grass is wet, too, but it’s not clear what that is.
Anyone who played golf in the 1980’s might recall the Ping lawsuit against the USGA over the banning of the Ping Eye2 iron. The ban was not over the U-groove, specifically, but over the spacing of the Eye2’s radius-edged grooves. In fact, the U-groove design was really the issue here. In 1984 the USGA had to either ban the casting process itself, or come up with some other reason to address the advantage U-grooves—or square grooves, as they were called—seemed to have over V-grooves.
Golf Digest reported an interesting statistic about the relationship between accuracy off the tee and rank on the tour money list. Accuracy off the tee was a strong indicator of success on the tour in the 1980s, and now it means very little. The current tour pros hit the ball so far that they can rely on their wedges for their second or third shot to get them on the green in regulation. The USGA thinks U-grooves might be a factor in that reliance.
Yet, wouldn’t longer rough or narrower fairways be a better solution than banning U-grooves?