Sunday, February 14, 2010


A brouhaha is brewing among professional golfers.

Joining the Royal and Ancient Golf Club of St. Andrews, which coordinates golf rules outside of North America, the United States Golf Association has ruled that using Ping Eye 2 wedges, clubs with specially cut grooves that improve golfers' play - don't ask me how, I'm no golfer - would no longer be permitted on the PGA Tour starting this year.

All well and good. Equipment specifications are a routine part of golf's rules. Because of a preexisting lawsuit, however, wedges made before 1990 were exempted from the new rule. Golfer Phil Mickelson, among others, has used a pre-1990 club for years, and initially planned to continue to do so, since it remained legal. After an outcry from other players, however, he decided not to use it until the rules are standardized, one way or the other.

Joe Read, a reader in Anaheim, Calif., wonders if the spirit of the regulation is as important as the letter of the law: Is it wrong for golfers to use pre-1990 clubs that may not be available to other golfers? Or is all fair as long as the rules are not violated?

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Jeffrey L. Seglin, author of The Right Thing: Conscience, Profit and Personal Responsibility in Today's Business (Smith Kerr, 2006), is an associate professor at Emerson College in Boston, where he teaches writing and ethics. He is also the administrator of The Right Thing, a Web log focused on ethical issues.

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Anonymous said...

With all the brouhaha over the antics of Tiger Wood, I am surprised that this much brouhaha is being made over a golf club. If you do even a little comparison to today's clubs, including putters, but especially the drivers, one has to believe that the clubs are being designed by people who guarantee more yards each time you use them. If you peruse the golf magazines, the clubs advertized look like their made for giants. To me, if they're manufactured, they should be able to use them unless the leadership outlaws them.

Charlie Seng
Lancaster, SC

Tom Ward said...

I see both sides of the argument, but side with the golfers that knew the rules and gave themselves the greatest advantage possible. The golfers who had equipped themselves per the spirit of the new equipment rule did so because they thought it was the right thing. But the right thing per the rules also permits the use of older but "nonconforming" clubs. But to vilify players taking advantage of pre-1990 clubs, which is completely within the rules, you have to be full of your own virtue. That does not make for a moral or ethical dilemma. It makes for a pile of hubris. At any rate, one still has to hit the golf ball in the hole. To my knowledge, it has given no winning advantage to those using pre-1990 clubs.

The Remembrance Tree said...

...square grooves on a wedge certainly improve ball-stopping ability with any golfer. Favorite wedges, like putters, seem to be employed many years unlike other clubs. (Tiger uses the same putter he had when he was an amateur). Mickelson relented only after other golfers spoke ill of his ‘character,’ as he made a selfish interpretation of the rules. Other golfers, recognizing the spirit of the game as well as the ‘grandest’ authority of the Royal and Ancient Golf Club of St. Andrews, comply without question and rightly so. Golf has a ‘tradition’ of character, and its rules are enforced by the golfer, typically, unlike baseball, football, others. Golfers for the most part are traditionalists, and there is no greater tradition than abiding The Royal and Ancient. They spelled out the wedge rule and ninety-nine percent of golfers ‘chose’ to forego square grooves ‘for the good of the game.’