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Sandy areas at Kiawah are not considered bunkers

Rory McIlroy
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KIAWAH ISLAND, S.C. – “No bunkers.”

In large, block letters, that’s the notice that greeted players in the Kiawah locker room this week for the 94th PGA Championship, a move made by officials for the event in response to the Ocean Course’s sprawling “sandy areas.”

For the PGA, players will be allowed to ground their clubs, take practice swings and remove debris from near their golf ball “through the green” in these sandy areas. Although there will be rakes in bunkers and players and caddies will be “encouraged” to groom the sand pits they will not play as traditional bunkers or hazards.

Officials used the same rule when the 1991 Ryder Cup was played at Kiawah and some have wondered why the PGA couldn’t play the Straits Course at Whistling Straits similarly. At the 2010 PGA Dustin Johnson was penalized two strokes on the 72nd hole when he grounded his club in what turned out to be a bunker.

On Tuesday at Kiawah, PGA managing director of championships Kerry Haigh was asked if the organization would consider declaring the Straits Course’s hazards “sandy areas” in 2015 when the PGA returns to Wisconsin.

“We will look at it again, as a unique course as we do at every site,” Haigh said. “I would anticipate that if you ask me right now we would play it the same way as we did in 2010, 2004 and 1999. The four times we’ve played it we’ve been very comfortable with the way it went. (But) if the design of the course changes we will certainly look at it as we do every site.”