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Okay, it would seem that everyone living in the real world is acutely aware of how tough it currently is. Getting caught off guard by something is a real easy way to raise someone’s blood pressure these days. And that is never a good thing! The following season’s greetings notice (feel free to insert your own adjective to describe it) dated December 10, 2008 was dropped on the doorsteps of the manufacturing community from the good people in Far Hills, NJ. Chances are no one felt the love.

“In accordance with the Joint Statement of Principles issued in 2002 by the USGA and the R&A, the purpose of the equipment rules is to protect golf's best traditions, to prevent an over-reliance on technological advances rather than skill, and to ensure that skill remains the dominant element of success throughout the game.
To carry out this mission, the USGA Equipment Standards staff conducts ongoing research into golf equipment technology. In recent years, we have informed you that research was being conducted on such things as golf balls, grooves, clubhead moment of inertia, and club adjustability. In some (but not all) cases, this research has led to a Notice and Comment process and a subsequently a change in the equipment rules.
We would like to make you aware that the USGA and the R&A are currently conducting research on high-lofted wedges. This research is being conducted to determine if high-lofted wedges (for example, 60 degrees of loft and higher) can reduce the challenge of the game for shots near the green.

t is important to note that this is strictly a research area of interest at the present time. No proposal is being made today. If our research results in a rule change proposal, it will be communicated through the USGA’s Notice and Comment process.
Any comments, technical information, or opinions regarding this topic are welcome. Any such information should be sent to: Dick Rugge, Senior Technical Director, P.O. Box 708, Far Hills, NJ 07931, Fax 908-234-0138, e-mail:
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The USGA has displayed a precedent in the past on these matter that is the equivalent of where there’s smoke, there’s fire. That’s not to say this is an exercise in futility, but the odds of that happening are frankly quite low. Now in the effort to maintain some objectivity on the topic, it’s worth stating the USGA’s directive has zero to do with the masses or real world. Its research shouldn’t and isn’t conducted in only good economic times either. The USGA simply exists to uphold the traditions of the game as its amply displayed time and time again already.
However, at the risk of jumping the gun, this note can be boiled down to one word that is now possibly coming into question: LOFT. It’s been the opinion of some of the best players who have ever taken up the game (Jack Nicklaus for one) that the golf ball is to blame for golf being too easy (I say sarcastically). Others believe drivers are or were out of control, at least until the USGA buttoned down every possible loophole perceived in club design. But to date, no one to the best of my knowledge, has ever challenged loft as the root of all evil towards the so-called integrity of the game. The admission by the USGA that its looking into this matter would also suggest its not entirely comfortable with its pending groove policy. It could be interpreted that the high loft topic is also one that is influenced by surfaces, in other words rough! To put it bluntly, where’s the harm or foul with high lofted wedges? What sudden revelations has the USGA arrived at, since they saw fit to give their blessings on the topic once upon a time? Lob wedges of 60-degrees and higher didn’t start sprouting up just last week. It’s worth noting that it was back in 1985, that Ping introduced an L wedge, which was 60 degrees. More than twenty years later, the USGA has decided to embark on researching this topic. Why and what has changed since its original decision?
The really annoying part of this medaling is that there isn’t any hard data to back up the USGA’s concerns. The bogeyman in golf is called distance. It isn’t measured with a club but rather how far a golf ball travels. With all of this research, to date, there has YET to be put forth anything to suggest a modification to golf balls might just eliminate the perceived problems. So one day soon there will be “different” grooves, which should reduce spin and technology’s role in rewarding skill. Funny thing is that Tour players possess greater skills than the masses and often can compensate where the common or average person can’t.
At a time when Uncle Sam can’t print money fast enough to intervene is a brutal economy, the USGA is looking to potentially tighten the screws for recreational golfers, a category its displayed little interest or concern towards. For those who still have some discretionary dollars available and time to play golf, the game is going to get tougher if the USGA has its way. It is 180 degrees away from a federal bail out plan and flies in the face of the few “grow the game” initiatives trying to make a difference. Meanwhile, golf ball companies can quite possibly find a way to compensate for the loss of spin from the new grooves or even perhaps 60-degree and above wedges that allow players to escape from trouble when they find it. And for the sake of argument, let’s assume the ball companies can offset some or maybe even all of the spin lost by the USGA intervention with future models. It’s a case of bifurcation by default executed in large part by the ruling body itself.
Higher spinning balls, which would be required, isn’t what the people, who frankly fund the industry--the recreational player-- needs to remain entrenched in this recreational pastime.
The skill level of the Joe the Plumbers around the world isn’t on par with the best of the best and never will be, which is really what all this noise emanating from the USGA is all about. The needs of the few outweigh those of the many. Good thing that isn’t the motto in Washington, DC or else the golf industry would find itself next to the dinosaur collection at the Smithsonian.