On the PGA Tour, players must use equipment “which conforms with the USGA Rules of Golf,” according to the 2012 PGA Tour Player Handbook. In practice, manufacturers typically provide a new club to the United States Golf Association for testing, to be certain that the club is compliant with the rules. The USGA doesn’t generally publish a list of banned clubs, but it does provide a searchable database of clubs that do or do not conform to the USGA’s new rules regarding grooved club faces. These rules apply to wedges, along with standard irons, hybrids and woods.
General Golf Club Rules
Appendix II of the Rules of Golf lists the general characteristics of a legal club. A club “must not be substantially different from the traditional and customary form and make,” meaning that it must contain a shaft and a head, and that it “may” also contain a grip. These parts must be secured together to form “one unit,” with no external attachments. With the exception of putters, clubs must be at least 18 inches long, but no longer than 48 inches. A variety of other rules address the angle and straightness of the shaft, the size and shape of the grip, and the structure of the club face.
The USGA announced new rules regarding club head grooves in 2008. The rules affect clubs with lofts of 25 degrees or more and, therefore, affect wedges of all types. The rules ban clubs with “sharp-edged U-grooves,” according to the PGA Tour, in favor of “the V-groove designs used predominantly in the past.” The groove rules took effect on the PGA and LPGA tours on Jan. 1, 2010.
Golfers wishing to learn whether their wedges are banned by the PGA can search the USGA’s “Informational Club Database.” Type in the name of the club’s manufacturer, the product name and describe the club’s markings in the appropriate boxes. Make sure the club type is set for “Irons & Wedges,” then click the “Submit” button. Alternatively, simply type the manufacturer’s name and click “Submit” to view a list of that manufacturer’s irons and wedges. Look in the far right column of the manufacturer’s list, under “Meets 2010 Groove Rules.” Approved clubs have a “Yes” in the far right column and banned clubs a “No,” while some are marked “ATR,” meaning additional testing is required.
Ping Eye 2 Wedges
The USGA and the PGA Tour first attempted to ban PING Eye 2 irons, including wedges, in 1990. As a result of the company’s lawsuit, Eye 2 irons manufactured prior to April 1, 1990, were grandfathered in as conforming clubs. The clubs remained legal after the new groove regulations took effect in 2010, at which point Phil Mickelson, Hunter Mahan, Fred Couples and some other players began using Eye 2 wedges on the PGA Tour. PING then agreed to partially waive its rights, allowing the PGA Tour to ban the Eye 2 irons.