Grooves ruling may affect course renovations

18 August 2008 Respond to this article

Grooves ruling may affect course renovations

18th August 2008

Although the new USGA legislation for grooves focuses on players’ equipment, it might have a secondary effect of reducing pressures for course renovations. And that, in turn, could further slow an already sluggish market in course construction and renovation.

A number of PGA Tour players have suggested they’d likely shift to a softer-covered ball in an effort to regain control. That would mean adopting a ball that also doesn’t travel as far, which might lead players to drive more for control rather than tee off with impunity.

Course architect Rees Jones, who has done more than any other architect today to toughen and lengthen major courses, summed up the likely effects of the rules while attending the PGA Championship at Oakland Hills.

“You mean rough will be rough again?” Jones said.

While the shift in equipment really only affects a small number at the game’s top levels, those perceptions of elite golfers drive much of the industrywide debate and help generate pressure for lengthening holes and toughening courses with deep bunkers and sharp-edged greenside falloffs.

Architect Tom Fazio suggested that the industry would adopt a “wait-and-see attitude” regarding the effects of the rules. That likely means close monitoring of results at repeat venues such as Augusta National, Pebble Beach and Muirfield Village with extensive databases that can measure performances before and after the changes.

A major test will be the 2013 U.S. Open at Merion Golf Club, which some say has been made obsolete by technology.

“Then we’ll know if these rules are really working,” Fazio said.

One thing that may change is the severity of course setups. Mike Davis, USGA senior director for rules and competitions, anticipates that in the face of the new rule, national championships probably would consider “a more conservative approach to setups, for example, with lower rough or hole locations six steps away from the (green’s) edge rather than four,” he said.

By: Bradley S. Klein - Golfweek