Dustin Johnson in the bunker on 18 at Whistling Straits/photo golfdigest.com
The PGA released a special notice Tuesday to inform players that all bunkering at Kiawah Island’s Ocean Course will be considered sandy areas and will be played through the green. Kerry Haigh, the PGA’s managing director of championships said;
“Whistling Straits was obviously just the opposite. It’s the same conditions we played the Ocean Course during the 1991 Ryder Cup, the 2005 PGA Professional Championship, the 2007 Senior PGA and it’s the same conditions played daily at the resort.”
This ruling was made to avoid the confusion that surrounded Dustin Johnson at Whistling Straits, he unsuspectingly grounded his club in what was deemed to be a bunker before his second shot, leading to a 2-stroke penalty. Dustin referred to the incident;
” I just thought I was on a piece of dirt that the crowd had trampled down, I never thought I was in a sand trap. It never once crossed my mind that I was in a bunker. Obviously I know the rules of golf and I can’t ground my club in a bunker, but that was just one situation I guess. Maybe I should have looked to the rule sheet a little harder.”
Nick Watney, who played with Dustin that day said;
“Honestly, I don’t think anyone reads the sheet, we’ve played hundreds of tournaments. We get a sheet every week. I feel for him. I’ve never seen fans in a bunker with a player. That was a little odd.”
A PGA statement was issued to clear up the differences between Kiawah Island and Whistling Straits;
“What differentiates the courses is that at Kiawah Island the sand is natural to the surrounding terrain, and in many cases, there is no clear definition of where such sandy areas stop and start. Bunkers at Whistling Straits were well defined and were completely surrounded by grass.
“As a result of this [condition of play], players will be allowed to move loose impediments, take practice swings and to ground their club lightly in these sandy areas; except when their ball lies in such a sandy area that is part of a water hazard or lateral water hazard. Under the rules, if a player’s ball is believed to be covered by sand anywhere on the course, he may move the sand without penalty, in order to find or identify the ball. All sandy areas inside the gallery rope line will be raked each morning, prior to play. During play, as strokes or practice swings are made, or players and others walk through such areas, footprints and other irregularities of surface may develop. Rakes will be available so that these areas may be smoothed as a courtesy to following players; however, these irregularities of surface, when not smoothed, are a part of the game and no relief, without penalty, will be provided.”
So Be warned. If the crowd are standing next to you, how are you supposed to know its a bunker ?