The new rules on grooves being implemented by the United States Golf Association/Royal and Ancient for next year have produced relatively little controversy compared to past edicts from golf’s ruling bodies, but that doesn’t mean at least a few company executives or shareholders aren’t grimacing at the cost.
“They want to bring skill in,” said Roger Cleveland, who visited the Launch facility in northwest Toronto last week on a visit to Callaway Golf Canada. “They don’t want somebody winning a tournament that isn’t the best-skilled that week. Everybody, I think, would agree with that.”
“They created a rule that takes the capacity of the grooves out and they’ve increased the radius of the top edge of the groove,” he added.
“They were trying to, instead of dictating something to us, they changed the rule to leave it open enough so we could go and design our own groove so, from that standpoint, they were being sympathetic to what we were trying to do, but it’s difficult,” said Cleveland.
So this latest round of equipment rules has been positively civil compared to past brouhahas that have resulted occasionally in lawsuits and even the alienating of golf legends for their stands on various issues.
The civility of it all doesn’t make the task any easier as Cleveland says that Callaway will make a huge investment in time and money to prepare for this change. He estimates it will cost approximately $1-million when all is said and done, including a $200,000 machine to make sure the grooves follow the new regulations.
“We’ve designed a groove that we like and we have to incorporate in all our tooling and all our product,” said Cleveland. “Whether it’s stamped or cut with milling like in a forging, or cast in a product like the X22, which will be sold and manufactured in 2010, we have to change that.
“To be able to measure correctly, (Callaway had to invest in) a $200,000 machine. That’s what the USGA bought. That’s what the R&A bought. It’s made in Europe, but it’s what we need to be able to verify exactly what they’re looking at,” he added.
“Is every manufacturer going to do that? I don’t know. Otherwise, you have to submit it to the ruling bodies and they’ll determine if it’s conforming or not, but it takes time,” said Cleveland, adding that Callaway is serious about abiding by the new regulations.
“We don’t want to produce product that isn’t conforming and have it kick back and have the consumer upset,” he said.
Despite all good intentions, there is a margin of error, according to Cleveland. “We don’t want to run into that situation,” he said. “The R&A and RCGA know that.
“When we design this groove, we’re not going to design it right up to the limit. We’ll be way off that, but even through the process, sometimes it’s going to get close,” he said, adding that things can sometimes be slightly off when a company is producing millions of irons throughout the year.
One thing Callaway would like to see is a bit of an extension on when manufacturers have to be fully compliant.
“To conform to the rules in 2010, we have to retool our products that are going to be sold and manufactured in 2010 by us. We’re trying to talk to the ruling bodies to see if we can extend out a little bit that time frame in which we can continue to make our existing groove,” said Cleveland.