Why Are Ping Eye 2 Irons Illegal? (Explained)



Ping Eye 2 Irons are illegal because they are designed with square grooves, which doesn’t conform with the United States Golf Association (USGA) and R&A rules, as it gives players an unfair advantage of excessive spin on the golf ball. However, Ping Eye 2 irons manufactured after April 1990 without the square or U-shaped groove pattern are not illegal.


If you’re a lover of vintage clubs, you’ve probably heard about the Ping Eye 2 irons, which had groove controversy and lawsuit issues in the 80s—when they were newly manufactured. If you plan to use these old clubs, you need to know which of their product lines are legal for competitive games and which have been grandfathered.


In the rest of this article, you will learn why the Ping Eye 2 irons were banned and other relevant details you should know if you plan to start using this set of clubs. Before diving fully, look at the key areas of the Ping Eye 2 irons construction.

Ping Eye 2: Iron Construction


When the Ping Eye 2 irons rolled out first in 1982, they became famous for their extreme perimeter weighting, such that the clubs resist twisting at impact for increased forgiveness.


Here is a short table showing the key features of Ping Eye’s two irons:


Shaft Options Ping JZ series steel, Ping 350 Series graphite
Groove Design V-shaped (1982), U-shaped (1984–1985), box groove (1986 onwards)
Club Head Design Offset and Cavity Back
Special Design Extreme-Perimeter Weighting
Forgiveness Enhanced by Perimeter Weighting and Offset Design
Game Improvement Emphasizes speed and forgiveness
Sole Design Patented design with a top rail undercut
Material Tungsten (for increased perimeter weighting)

So What Makes the Ping Eye 2 Iron Illegal?

The main point of contention revolves around the grooves on the Ping Eye 2 iron clubface.


Unlike most golf clubs with round grooves, the Ping Eye 2 irons stand out with their square or U-shaped grooves. The issue, as flagged by the USGA, is that these grooves can make the golf ball spin more than clubs with round tracks. 

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Why does this matter? The extra spin can give players an unfair advantage, especially in tricky situations like wet or long grass, where clubs with round grooves might struggle.


The USGA argued that the unique groove design of the Ping Eye 2 irons allows players to have better control over the ball’s flight and landing.


This provides an edge that goes against the fair play principles in golf.

What’s wrong with the Square Grooves design of Ping Eye 2 that makes it illegal?


Square or “U” grooves in golf clubs caused a stir due to debates about how they improve players’ games (in the wrong way).


The PGA Tour briefly banned them, not for being inherently illegal but because of a rule indirectly affecting the clubs.


This groove’s shape, depth, and spacing go against the stipulations of the USGA.


People argue whether square grooves give golfers an advantage; some studies say no, while others claim a slight boost in spin rates from rough terrain.


The controversy peaked when Ping Eye-2 irons, with square grooves, were banned for supposedly aiding golfers too much. Despite this, the 40-year-old Ping wedge stayed legal after a successful lawsuit against the USGA in 1990, making all square-headed clubs okay.


However, the golf governing bodies, the USGA and R&A, said square or “U” grooves are illegal in PGA tournaments.


So, the beloved square grooves were replaced with less effective V-shaped grooves, changing equipment rules significantly.

Is there a penalty for using non-conforming Ping Eye 2 irons in competitive play?

Using the wrong Ping Eye 2 irons in a competition can lead to penalties or getting kicked out.

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The punishment depends on the event rules, but usually, players get a two-stroke penalty for each hole played with the non-approved club.


This adds up quickly, affecting their overall score and position in the competition.


In more severe cases, players may be disqualified from the event entirely.


So, if you’re playing a not recreational game, ensure that you double-check that your gear follows the competition’s guidelines.

How to Identify Non-Conforming Irons


All Ping Eye-2 irons are legal now, but you must distinguish between old and new ones. The older ones are okay because of a particular rule, while the newer ones got changed to follow the rules.


To tell the difference, check the patent number. It might have once-illegal grooves if you don’t see a bump or plus sign.


For more details, this is a handy list by the USGA that tells you what golf gear is legal or not.


It covers balls and drivers and gives guidance on clubs and balls.

What Year Did They Stop Making Ping Eye 2?


The original Ping Eye 2 irons were made until March 1990, but Ping kept making a slightly updated version after that.


People argue about the exact date when they stopped, but there are indications that all Ping Eye 2 irons, no matter the grind version, stopped being made around 1985.

Can You Still Play Ping Eye 2 Irons?

Yes! People still use Ping Eye 2 irons. If the irons were made before 1990, they are allowed in most golf tournaments, following rules from organizations like the USGA.


The catch is that the irons might not be allowed in some tournaments, mainly due to rules set by the USGA.


But for most casual and amateur games, Ping Eye 2 irons are still good to go. Some professional events also permit them, depending on the specific model and when they were made.

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Despite occasional debates about the design, these irons are still popular among golfers.


Their unique style and history make them stand out.


So, while there might be some restrictions in specific tournaments, Ping Eye 2 irons remain a favourite choice for many golfers. Unfortunately, you can only get them second-hand.

Why does Ping Eye 2 sell for so much?


Ping Eye 2 golf clubs are pricey when resold because they’re considered timeless and good to play with.


People want them, so there’s a high demand. This is why all used clubs, not just Ping Eye 2, cost a lot now—it’s essential supply and demand.


Even if you look for other 5-7-year-olds and in good shape clubs, you’ll find them selling for $700–$800 for a set.


The Ping Eye 2 stands out because it has a unique “illegal groove pattern,” which generally would be a problem, but it got an exemption until 2024, making it even more special and valuable.

Key Takeaways


  • The Ping Eye 2 clubs come in different versions. The early ones (1982–1984) have ‘V’ grooves; the next ones have square grooves, and later models feature ‘U’ grooves.
  • Ping Eye 2 Irons are illegal because they are designed with square grooves, which doesn’t conform with the United States Golf Association (USGA) and R&A rules.
  • Ping Eye 2 irons manufactured after April 1990 without the square or U-shaped groove pattern are not illegal.
  • These clubs might not give you as much distance as modern irons because newer irons use better technology with stronger lofts and improved materials, leading to faster ball speeds and more space.
  • Even though Ping Eye 2 irons are considered non-conforming for official competitions, you can still use them for fun and casual play.


I hope you found this helpful.




Hello, I'm Fredrick, and I have a genuine passion for golf. With over 15 years of immersion in the golfing industry, I've not only played the game extensively but also honed my skills in crafting informational guides on golf. Golf is not just a sport to me; it's a way of life, and I'm thrilled to share my expertise with fellow enthusiasts.