PINEHURST, N.C. - What Pinehurst No. 2 lacks in rough, it more than makes up for with sandy areas around both the fairways and greens.
During both the U.S. Open and U.S. Women's Open in June, some shots will be played from waste areas - where players can ground their club and remove loose impediments without penalty - while others will be played from bunkers, which are considered hazards. According to USGA executive director Mike Davis, a plan is in place to have a line of delineation between the two this summer.
"We never contemplated having everything 'through the green,' or having everything a hazard," Davis said. "That's just not how the rules of golf operate."
The definition of sandy areas is an issue that garnered significant attention at two recent editions of the PGA Championship. In 2010 at Whistling Straits, tournament officials played all sandy areas as hazards - costing Dustin Johnson a shot at the Wanamaker Trophy on the 72nd hole. Two years later at Kiawah Island, the ball was played "through the green" - meaning the various sandy areas along the Ocean Course were all deemed to be waste areas.
Davis believes that featuring both sandy areas and bunkers will allow tournament officials to remain more in line with how the course was originally meant to be played.
"There's a definition to what a hazard is and what a bunker is, and that's what we follow," Davis said. "Just to make everything 'through the green' so it's easier - well it may be easier for the player to understand, but it really compromises the architectural intent of the golf course."
Davis expects that most balls that approach what the USGA will term bunkers will be funneled to the center of the hazards by "tamped down" and well-defined sides. In the event of a close call, though, rules officials following each group will make the final determination - often erring on the side of caution.
"The times that maybe it does hang up and it's right on the edge, that's when we've got the official," Davis said. "I think that if we really do get into a place where we say you could go either way, we're always going to stop and say, 'It's in the hazard. Don't ground your club.'"