TaylorMade Wins USGA Appeal on Wedge Face Plates
TaylorMade's new TP wedges with xFT (Exchangeable Face Technology) allow golfers to unscrew a face plate that contains the club's grooves and replace it with a new plate in about a minute.
TaylorMade had planned to sell face plates separately so golfers could play with fresh grooves more often, but the USGA informed TaylorMade in October that it could not sell face plates with the company's Z grooves—which will soon become non-conforming for professionals—in 2010. However, TaylorMade could sell a whole TP wedge with Z grooves and face plates with a conforming groove.
TaylorMade appealed the ruling, and on Wednesday the USGA reversed itself, saying that TaylorMade will be able to separately sell Z-groove face plates, which will cost about $45, in 2010.
Dick Rugge, the USGA's senior technical director, refused to comment on the case on Friday morning.
Before the ruling was announced, Benoit Vincent, TaylorMade's chief technical director, said the root of the USGA's initial dispute wasn't with the interchangeable face technology. In his mind, the real question the USGA had was, "Are the additional faces that might be sold in 2010 a threat to the clean-up goal that the rules [and deadlines for implementation] intrinsically have?"
According to Vincent, the USGA is hoping that wedges and other clubs with U grooves will naturally start coming out of amateur golfers' bags as they get worn out. By the time weekend players need to start using the conforming V grooves in 2024, it is hoped that the vast majority would already be replaced with equipment that conforms to the new guidelines.The interchangeable face plates, presumably, would make it possible for golfers to stockpile non-conforming grooves.
TaylorMade will not be able to sell or ship wedges or face plates that contain non-conforming grooves after December 31, 2010. However, pro shops and retailers will be able to sell their remaining inventories until they are depleted.