The Rules At Pinehurst
By Torleif Sorenson on 6/10/14
Doug Ferguson, lead golf writer for the Associated Press, correctly notes that this year's men's and women's U.S. Open Championships will be played on a rather unconventional course. And one of those who is over-the-moon happy about it is USGA Executive Director Mike Davis, who told Ferguson, "It's awesome."

We're not at Augusta anymore, Toto:
  • Instead of a lush carpet of green, Pinehurst #2 will have a dizzying array of browns, greens, and yellows. The restoration of Donald Ross's original design by architects Bill Coore and Ben Crenshaw resulted in just 450 sprinkler heads remaining to irrigate the course. Roughly 700 heads are now history — and Pinehurst's water consumption is just 60% of what it was previously.

  • Gone is the thick, "U.S. Open-style" rough. Instead, we have sandy waste areas. Coore and Crenshaw's redesign resulted in 35 acres of turf being removed — most of it from the rough.

  • Those waste areas are deeply infused with what Pinehurst officials call "natural vegetation." Homeowners with yards usually call them "weeds."

Those sandy waste areas could be the portent for a rash of on-course rules episodes. Think about it: Where does the rough end and a bunker begin? If you remember the 2010 PGA Championship at Whistling Straits in Wisconsin, you know that Dustin Johnson was penalized for grounding a club in what the PGA of America designated a bunker. Johnson's violation of Rule 13.4 cost him dearly, both on the scorecard and the wallet.

Alan Bastable had two eye-opening comments — the second of which could prove quite prescient:

Between several player storylines and the throwback architecture potentially causing at least one rules kerfuffle, the 114th United States Open Championship could prove to be one of the most compelling in golf history.

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Image via USGA

[ comments ]
GBogey says:
It's my understanding of USGA rules is that any bunker like area that contains vegetation is a waste area. Technically (according to my caddie when I was there), Dustin Johnson was in a waste area at Whistling Straits, but for some reason the PGA decided that week that all bunkers would be played as hazards. I think but not sure that the PGA has already determined that USGA rules will be used when it returns to Whistling Straits.
Of course in this day and age, you will probably still need rulings as to what constitutes vegetation.
mjaber says:
I'd just play it safe. If you're not in the fairway, don't ground your club and play the ball as it lies.
srogers13 says:
One of the USGA guys said that there would be a rules official with every group. I would ask him, and what he says, goes. You can not be penalized for doing something wrong if that is what you were told.
bkuehn1952 says:
USGA Explanation On Status Of "Waste Bunkers"

The Rules of Golf do not define such areas. By Definition, a bunker is a prepared area of ground from which turf or soil has been removed and replaced with sand or the like.

On the other hand, a natural sandy area is not a hazard, and a player whose ball lies in such an area may ground his club lightly in, or remove loose impediments from, the area as the area is through the green. The PGA Tour Rules Committee identified a number of these areas around the Harbour Town Golf Links, referred to them as "waste areas" on their Local Rules sheet and treated them as areas through the green for the competition.

It is a fact that the removal of loose impediments (in accordance with Rule 23-1) may incidentally cause the removal of a small amount of sand or similar material...
Matt F says:
Just hit it in the bloody fairway...these guys and girls are the best aren't they?
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