No bunkers at the PGA — good news for Dustin!
By Stephanie Wei under PGA Championship

Kiawah's Ocean Course in '07 at the Senior PGA

Okay, I’m already sick of the above-mentioned Dustin Johnson crack in connection to the PGA of America’s “Condition of Play” announcement for the 94th PGA Championship. Of course, the DJ-bunker joke is referencing his unfortunate mistake in 2010 at Whistling Straits, where it turned out he grounded his club in the whole “bunker-not-a-bunker” debacle, which caused him to miss out on a playoff with Bubba Watson and Martin Kaymer.

Well, the 156-player field won’t have to worry about distinguishing between bunker and waste areas at this year’s championship at The Ocean Course in Kiawah Island, S.C. (held August 6-12) — all sandy areas will be regarded as “through the green” and not designated as “bunkers” in the season’s final major.

The same rule was in effect for the Ryder Cup in 1991, the 2005 PGA Professional National Championship and the 2007 Senior PGA Championship.

“With the unique topography of The Ocean Course, natural sandy areas spread throughout the entire property, The PGA of America Rules Committee has determined that all of these areas will be treated alike and played as through the green,” said PGA of America President Allen Wronowski in a press release. “We believe that by establishing the Condition of Play for the 94th PGA Championship well in advance of the Championship it will help players and spectators prepare for this spectacular Major Championship experience.”

Players will be allowed to move loose impediments, take practice swings and “ground their club lightly in these sandy areas” — except when their ball is in a sandy area that is part of a water hazard or lateral water hazard. Just to be clear, the Rules of Golf permits a player to move sand without penalty to identify the ball if he believes it is covered by sand anywhere on the course.

The PGA will rake all sandy areas inside the ropes each morning. Rakes will be available to smooth out footprints and other irregularities in the surface as a courtesy to following players. However, if players (and their caddies) decide to be discourteous and choose not to rake where they’ve stomped, their fellow competitors will have to play the ball as it lies.

The PGA of America also points out that this year’s Condition of Play differs from 2010 at Whistling Straits, where all areas of the course that were designed and built as sand bunkers were played as bunkers. What sets apart the courses is that the sand at Kiawah Island is natural to the surrounding terrain and in lots of cases there is no clear definition of where the sandy areas stop and start. (Hmm, that sounds familiar?) However, according to the media blast, “Bunkers at Whistling Straits were well defined and were completely surrounded by grass.”

I’d beg to differ. This was definitely not the case after the bunkers were trampled repeatedly by thousands of spectators throughout the course of the week.

Moving on. No repeat of bunker-gate a la 2010 in 2012.

(Getty Images/Scott Halleran)