Thursday, October 22, 2009

How The Groove Policy Will Affect Mini Tours

I get so much bullshit e-mail in my inbox that when I get something delightful, it almost makes my day.

Today, I was lucky enough to be sent the Gateway Tour's, a mini tour sprawled out across the country, groove policy for 2009, and like the PGA Tour, it is mandatory, with less spin.

Effective immediately upon the start of the 2010 season, all players must use grooves conforming to the USGA's newly set standards for all clubs with 45 degrees or more of loft. The Gateway Tour will comply with the USGA's standards with all clubs 25 degrees or higher beginning with the start of the 2011 season.
"Every decision we make with our policies is based on helping our players prepare to play the PGA TOUR," said the Tour's VP of Operations, Ryan Pray. "Many of our players will be working to qualify for Nationwide and PGA tour events and know they need to be fully compliant with USGA standards for 2010, but we also serve a large number of players that are working to reach tour quality that the new standards might deter them because of the financial cost. These players don't have the same availability to switch out all of their clubs for conforming ones as those who have relationships with club manufacturers. We think this policy change will best serve our tour and it's players and provide for tournament competitions where grooves will have a minimal effect."

So, what does this mean for the mini tour slums (read: my favorite people ever) that hack it around every year for enough money to pay rent and hopefully get themselves into the occasionally Jimmy Buffet concert? It means a few things.

First, they have to go get new wedges. With the economy still reeling from the '08 disaster, club companies aren't willing to hand out the free equipment like they used to. That means mini tour guys and their contracts with club companies. For instances, when I was playing mini tour golf, I had a deal with Titleist that got me a discount on all merchandise, but nothing for free (Except hats). I'm sure the deals like that have lessened, since really it's a hope that a mini tour guy breaks through and Titleist can brand that person. So, guys need to buy new wedges, and do it fast.

Second, unlike the Tiger Woods or Stewart Cinks of the world, these wedges aren't being sent by the handful to Frank Birdies. Mini Tour players haven't had the ability to practice with the new grooves for the last year or so, like some of the higher professionals with the big club deals. This means a disadvantage next season on Monday qualifiers and the likes. If you were a big guy that didn't make the top 125, you still probably have a big deal with the club manufacturers. If you were some random guy tossing out his money to try and catch lightening on a random Monday, you don't know the wedges as well. Advantage, former PGA Tour pro.

Finally, it just means more things the mini tour guy will have to battle. Which tour requires the new grooves and which don't? How hard will they be checking? Could somebody in my group be cheating the system?

It's just interesting how decisions can ripple down to smaller groups that are trying to do the same thing. The groove policy will be an interesting one over the next year.

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