new driver from a startup company has a fundamentally different thought about what golfers need to produce straighter tee shots: A vertical groove pattern instead of horizontal.
While the faces of many drivers today often eschew grooves of any kind in certain sections (particularly face center), the new Vertical Groove Driver is flush with scorelines that run from crown to sole instead of the traditional direction of heel to toe. The theory is that the grooves will mitigate sidespin to produce shots that slice or hook less.
No current driver models feature this kind of groove configuration, although Bridgestone’s JGR driver, introduced earlier this year, featured milling marks on the face designed to control spin. Bridgestone’s engineers suggested that the milling pattern, which included vertical lines on the heel and toe, prevented the ball from sliding slightly on the face.
Most companies opt out of grooves on the face of a driver in part because driver faces have become so thin that designing for grooves might require a thicker face construction. The USGA/R&A study on spin generation in 2006 that was part of the study of grooves included research showing that at lower lofts a certain level of coefficient of friction could reduce spin somewhat, but surface roughness is different than grooves. It’s also worth noting that typically the primary function of grooves on a clubface is to channel debris and moisture away from the ball-clubface contact point, and is often most beneficial in shots from the rough.
Of course, the Vertical Groove Driver’s face pattern is much more extreme than barely visible milling marks. A pattern of 17 vertical grooves span the face area. There was a patent filed decades ago by Tony Antonious, whose name is on hundreds of patents but is most known for his patent on the velcro closure of a golf glove. Merit Golf produced a vertical groove driver design in 2002 based on this idea, and touted its pattern as reducing spin.
The Vertical Groove driver's grooves are designed to reduce sidespin, but according to Vertical Groove Golf’s head of research and development Mike Rossi, the grooves are just one part of a total solution to straighter tee shots.
“It’s really a multifaceted approach,” Rossi said. “We’re on our fourth generation to get the right center of gravity position, bulge and roll, clubhead size and shape. All those things are combining to get the results we’re seeing in our testing. From what we see, the grooves really are the tiebreaker in making the club work.”
Rossi said the grooves also “create a consistent energy transfer” at impact. He also isn’t hyping the Vertical Groove Driver as being an extremely low spin offering.
“I think there’s been a lot of debate about spin, but I believe the average player can benefit from a little more spin. At a sub-90 mile-per-hour swing, you’re going to need some spin to get some better carry.”
Still, he believes the Vertical Groove driver works across a wide range of player types. That’s why the driver will be offered with five stock flexes (A-flex through X-flex),; ranging from 45 to 65 grams in the Aldila NV2K shaft.
The Vertical Groove driver will be available at the company’s website in December ($400).