What exactly are progressive grooves? | Fully Equipped mailbag

progressive grooves irons

Not all grooves are created equal.

Jonathan Wall/GOLF

Welcome to another edition of the Fully Equipped mailbag, sponsored by Cleveland/Srixon Golf, an interactive GOLF.com series in which we field your hard-hitting gear questions.

What’s the deal with progressive grooves, and how come my driver doesn’t have any grooves at all? – Artie B., Florida

Those are two very different questions, Artie. But no worries, we’ll cut you a two-for-one deal this week. It may seem like a new concept to some of you out there in Mailbag-land, but progressive grooves really aren’t that new. They’ve been around on iron sets for a while, but safe to say what we’re seeing now is better than we’ve ever seen in terms of how they work.

Let’s start by explaining how grooves work in the first place. Grooves are designed to increase friction on the clubface and to channel away water and debris at impact with the ball. There’s a bit more to the science of spin that we’re omitting here, but for simplicity sake just know that the cleaner and crisper the contact, the greater spin you’ll get (with short irons and wedges, at least.)

Srixon ZX5 MKII iron

Srixon ZX5 MKII

ZX5 MKII is the perfect union of razor-sharp looks, power, and playability — combining a premium forged feel, advanced ball speed, and distance technology.

When you see the term “progressive grooves” on a set of irons, what that really means is the longer clubs have fewer grooves for more distance and the shorter clubs have more grooves for added shotmaking control.

Take the new Srixon ZX MKII irons for example. Each set in the MKII line (ZX4, ZX5, an ZX7) all feature a progressive groove setup with less grooves in the 3i-7i and more grooves in the 8-AW irons in the set.

Furthermore, Srixon incorporated even more technology to each of the iron’s clubfaces by adding laser-milled channels between every groove for enhanced performance. This makes the faces on all the ZX MKII irons very grabby and even better at channeling away dirt and debris.

In other words, having more grooves in the shorter irons means there are more edges and corners for the golf ball to cling to as well as more room for water and debris to be pushed away, leading to more stopping power/increased spin. And get this, clubs with newer (sharper) grooves tend to work better at maintaining consistent spin and trajectory angles than clubfaces with old or worn out grooves. So to anyone who says that grooves don’t contribute to spin, we beg to differ.

All of Srixon’s ZX Mk II irons come with laser milling between each groove for added friction. Srixon

The flipside is having fewer grooves, which helps to reduce spin on lower irons for a more penetrating launch and more distance. Fact is, grooves play less of role with lower-lofted clubs, meaning the best way to add spin with a longer club is to push the center of gravity further back instead of adding more texture to the clubface. Fewer grooves also means there’s more mass behind the ball.

That’s left us to the answer of the second part of your question about grooves on a driver.

The main reason drivers don’t have grooves is because drivers tend to have razor thin face-thicknesses and cutting grooves will likely weaken them too much. Second, the driver strikes the ball with a much lower spin-loft angle (meaning the clubface hits the ball from a somewhat level or slightly ascending attack angle).

This means not having grooves really won’t make that big a difference in terms of adding or reducing spin. And unless you’re a sloppy player, most of us hit drives with clean driver clubfaces, so there’s usually not much debris or water to channel away between the ball and clubface anyway.

Want to overhaul your bag for 2023? Find a fitting location near you at GOLF’s affiliate company True Spec Golf. For more on the latest gear news and information, check out our latest Fully Equipped podcast below!

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Ryan Noll

Golf.com Contributor