Last Thursday Cleveland Golf founder and current Callaway club guru Roger Cleveland came to Toronto as part of a roadshow to demonstrate what the clubmaker is doing primarily in the area of wedges.
And while any discussion on clubs can turn into a dry discourse on the nuances of technology, Cleveland was open and opinionated when it came to the state of the equipment game.
I don’t know if he ever actually addressed the issue of bifurcation (or having a set of equipment rules for the pros and one for the rest of us hacks) precisely, but one thing is clear — Callaway is preparing the best it can to deal with the USGA’s groove change that is set for next year, and that the company wouldn’t object to a so-called “tour ball.”
The USGA’s grooves changes, announced in 2008, go into play next year. The goal is to force golfers — especially PGA Tour pros — to find the fairway more often or risk not being able to spin the ball in the rough.
“If you miss the fairway, you will hit a flier,” Cleveland says. But that’s not the goal of Callaway. Instead, the company, which Cleveland says spends between $30 and $35-million on club R&D each year, is actively trying to work within the USGA specs to develop a groove that spins as much as is allowed.
“We’re trying to develop a groove that mitigates the loss of spin,” he said. To do so, Callaway purchased a machine that measures the correct grooves at a cost of $200,000, while it cost another $1 million to retool the company’s facilities to compensate for the rule change. Want to play in a USGA certified event? You’ll have to change your irons.
Does this make much sense? Not even to Cleveland, by the sounds of things, who suggests a much easier route — roll back the golf ball for the pros. Offering two balls would actually encourage sales as some golfers would want to play exactly what the tour players hit. Callaway’s take on this? Not a problem, apparently.
“Callaway would not object to a tour ball,” he says, adding his own preference is to have the ball spin more as well.
Would it make a difference to sales? Not at all, Cleveland says. The marketing guys already have that covered.
“They think the amateur golfer wants to play the ball Tiger plays and they are convinced of that,” he says.
One thing that worries Cleveland is that the game will become more difficult for the average player under the new rules. And there are already rumblings of limits on lofted wedges, though as far as I could tell Cleveland wasn’t a big proponent of 64 degree wedges in the bags of weekend-hacks anyway. Interesting though that he noted Tiger’s lob wedge is 58 degree with 8 degrees of bounce — not zero bounce as some have suggested. Phil Mickelson uses a 64 degree wedge with 5 degrees of bounce.
“You have to be skilled,” to use one of the high-lofted wedges, he says. “And you will mishit it.”