Print and Go Back ESPN.com: Golf [Print without images]

Wednesday, January 26, 2011
A ruling Dustin Johnson could love


In a classic example of enacting a local rule, this week the European Tour has deemed all sand at the Volvo Golf Champions to be waste areas, not bunkers.

That means any sand on the course is not considered a hazard, and players can take practice swings, ground their clubs and remove loose impediments.

That is in stark contrast to what occurred last year at the PGA Championship, where all sand on the Whistling Straits course was deemed to be a hazard.

Dustin Johnson wasn't aware of that and grounded his club on the 18th hole the final day, costing him a two-stroke penalty and a spot in a playoff won by Martin Kaymer.

"We have taken this decision to provide clarity for the players given that the rules in the two areas are so very different,'' said Andy McFee, chief referee, according to the European Tour's website. "The golf course is absolutely fine, but the blurring of the boundaries between desert and bunker, whilst visually attractive, potentially provides a major problem of definition.

"As this is common throughout the course and not restricted to the odd situation here and there, we felt this was the best way to exercise our duty to define the course properly.''

The same stipulation was put in place for the 1991 Ryder Cup at Kiawah Island.

Interestingly, the United States Golf Association's rules of golf do not define such areas. A natural sandy area is typically not considered a hazard, but local rules can be put in place to define them.

"It is the reverse of the situation prevalent at Whistling Straits last year during the 2010 US PGA Championship,'' McFee said. "On that course, there are 1200 sand areas and the vast majority of them look like bunkers, so the clarity was provided by declaring them all bunkers.

"At The Royal Golf Club, many of the questionable areas look like and merge into desert, so we are going to treat them as desert."

Bob Harig covers golf for ESPN.com. He can be reached at BobHarig@gmail.com.