What happened when U-grooves were banned? Scores went down, actually
Remember the ruckus when the USGA and R and A banned U-grooves? Remember why they dd it? I seem to recall that the reason was that the grooves produced too much spin, so they made the game too easy – players were just having too easy a time of things, what with all the extra spin on their approach shots.
But a funny thing happened on the way to the scorer’s tent: After the U-groove ban went into effect, scores actually fell.
In a new paper in Applied Economics Letters, entitled “Pandora’s groove: analyzing the effect of the U-grove ban on PGA Tour golfers’ performances and strategies,” Wake Forest University Sports Economist Todd McFall and UNC-Wilmington Economist Julianne Treme document how the U-groove ban resulted not in golf courses growing back some of their protective teeth, but rather players taking less risks and – Tah-Dah! – carding lower overall scores.
McFall and Treme explain this counter-intuitive result – one which I’m sure bemuses the USGA and PGA Tour to no small degree – as follows:
“Players changed their behavior by choosing to play more conservatively. After the technology ban, they were no longer playing darts with their shots to the green. Instead, they compensated by being satisfied with just getting on the green more often, thus giving them better control of the ball for their next shot.”
For those of you who want to read more about the study without having to wade through all the inferential statistics, a nice summary can be found at Science Daily.
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