Do vertical grooves make a difference? This quirky driver is now on sale in the UK
Wacky inventions and crackpot ideas are common in golf. Square drivers, hosel-free irons and countless far-fetched projects have had more than five minutes of fame over the years. Most bonkers concepts come and go in the blink of an eye. But every now and then an idea sticks, and ends up changing the game for the better.
Vertical Groove Golf believe they've hit upon such an idea, which they say increases driver accuracy by up to 40%. It involves rotating the grooves 90degrees, so they run vertically down the face rather than across it. They've patented the idea, and got the Vertical Groove driver into the hands of John Daly on the senior tour.
You can now buy them in the UK, so it's time to ask: Do vertical grooves make a difference? To find out, we got our big-hitting test pro Chris Ryan to hit shots with a Vertical Groove driver and one of 2017's most popular drivers, TaylorMade's M1. The latter was fitted for him, the Vertical Groove driver was matched to Chris from the brand's online shop. We used a premium ball, and captured data on a launch monitor.
The differences are huge comparing the two drivers side by side. The Vertical Groove's stubbier, less streamlined 450cc head is dwarfed by the M1's sleek, wide, carbon design. The M1 has an adjustable hosel (12 positions). The Vertical Groove driver has just a single xed sole weight.
Looks-wise if the M1 is a nine out of 10, the Vertical Groove, to our eye, can't be higher than five. Still, it's sold on performance, and on the face of it the Vertical Groove did incredibly well, matching the M1 pound for pound when it came to yards, which was a real surprise to us. But that doesn't quite tell the whole story.
Vertical Groove's claim is better dispersion and straighter drives. While we'd agree dispersion was tight, as the driver irons out sidespin, shots didn't have the same shape that our test pro is accustomed to. Chris usually hits a powerful draw, but his shots stayed right, meaning lots of straight shots – but shots that were also straight right.
What does it mean for you?
Well, Vertical Groove don't claim their driver fixes a slice, but it's likely shots that start left of the target and cut back are likely to stay left.
The Vertical Groove driver is surprisingly powerful from what is best described as a very ordinary head. Potentially there is something in the tech, but we feel golfers need to consistently launch shots at the target (and don't want to shape shots much) to get the best out of it. At £399 it's right up there with the popular premium clubs, and by being predominantly sold online, without a fitting, that's an expensive gamble.