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John Renslow: Eyes on the Cup

Professional athletes receive a certain amount of criticism due to the commercialization of their game. It’s not really their fault. Would you turn down a few million dollars to throw, kick, or catch a ball?

Every arena, course, and park has signage like wallpaper, until every corner is covered. We see flashing lights in stadiums, guys and girls with corporate logos where their clothes used to be, and buildings named after the highest bidder.

But, as we recently introduced, this week in professional golf it’s all for pride. This week it is the Ryder Cup.

Every two years, the best players from the United States take on the best players from Europe in a team match. Since 1927, the best players from Great Britain have challenged the best players from the United States in a team match.

The winning team earned a trophy that is kept at their home club until the next event is played. As the game grew in the US, the greater number players to draw from created an American dominance. So, in 1979, team across the pond expanded to include continental Europe.

The type of play is a departure from what you will normally see in a televised event. Match Play is the format of the day. Rather than a total score against a field, the individual players, or teams of two players, compete against another individual or team of two.

Beginning on the first tee, the Match is tracked hole by hole. The lower score wins the hole and the match continues until an individual (or team) has won more holes than the number of holes that remain to be played. By winning a Match, the individual or team earns a point for their team. A Match that ends in a tie is “halved,” and each team earns half a point.

In fact, they use a now rarely enjoyed “foursome” type of play. In addition to “fourball” in which each golfer plays their own ball, this format only has two balls in play.

The word foursome is often misused to describe four players in the same group. However, according to the Rules of Golf, a foursome is a style of play in which teams of two play only one ball. Each player hits their shot in sequence. Player A hits, then you find the ball and Player B hits. After finding B’s shot, Player A hits, and so on.

This is a great, classic type of play. Yet, it is not used often. One reason is that you only hit every other shot, but the other is likely due to its stress on relationships. Undoubtedly, you will hit a shot that will put your partner either in a bunker, some really tall rough, or behind a tree. Husbands and wives should not use this format. When home clubs choose this format for couples, it is often referred to as the “Divorce Tournament.”

Through a series of individual or “singles” matches and team matches, a total of 28 points are available. Once either side has amassed more than half of the available points (14 ½), Samuel Ryder’s Cup is theirs.

It’s a different, fun format to watch. And, what makes it even more cool is … you won’t see corporate logos everywhere. Nothing on the players. Nothing on their golf bags. Just matching apparel for everyone.

Any guesses on the prize money? How much does the winning team receive? There is no cash purse. Despite being one of the world’s most significant sporting events, players don’t receive prize money at the Ryder Cup.

It’s a week they could be doing almost anything they want to do, anywhere they want to do it. But, these guys wouldn’t be anywhere else. It’s an opportunity to be part of something bigger than yourself and part of an elite team.

Team Europe has won four of the last five matches and currently has possession of the Cup. Friday morning, Team USA got to work and had a 3 – 1 lead in early matches. Today, the team matches continue and tomorrow each player participates in singles matches.

In a time when other sports have players holding out for more money, the boys may earn something more valuable, if they can keep the Cup on American soil.

John Renslow is a PGA professional, VP of Yugi Golf Management, and provides golf instruction at local courses

John Renslow: It’s that time of year

It has happened twice a year for our entire lives, yet sneaks up on us every time. No, we’re not talking about changing the clocks for Daylight Saving Time, we’re talking about the golf course aerifying process.

It’s that time of the year. Actually, the second time of the year. Spring and fall, your often unheralded golf course maintenance crew will take a machine out to each green. The machine rapidly inserts a collection of tines (generally between 3/8-inch and 5/8-inch in diameter) into the turf that extract cores about 3-inches in length. After the cores have been removed, a measure of sand is distributed across the entire green. Finally, the sand is spread out to fill the holes and leave a fairly level playing surface.

You see, living things need oxygen to breath. Seems obvious enough, but…when the greens on our home course get this spring or fall treatment, many of us lose perspective. We watch TV and know what tour courses look like from the air…many think their course should look like that, too.

Let not your heart be troubled. Your golf course, too, will return to its original state, if not better. Granted, it will take two to three weeks before everything is “normal” again. But, as with most improvements, no pain, no gain. That layer of sand and those little holes may disturb your putting. However, this short term disruption is a long-term gain for your golf course.

A quality green requires deep and healthy roots. From the surface, it may sound like an exaggeration, those blades of grass, just longer than an 1/8-inch (in California usually a type of Bent Grass), have roots that are several inches deep (and the deeper the better). In order to maintain a quality plant and healthy roots, the roots need oxygen.

Thousands of rounds a year and millions of footsteps (if you think this is an exaggeration, do some quick math — how many steps do you take on a green? Multiplied by 40,000 rounds a year?) will contribute to a compaction of the greens. When compacted, the small pockets of air in the soil are crushed. This will leave the roots suffocating and gasping for air (pardon me for a wee bit of graphic violence).

Also, routine preparation of the golf course will contribute to an accumulation of thatch.

Thatch is a layer of grass stems, roots, clippings and debris that settle on the ground and either slowly decompose and/or accumulate over time. An excessive thatch layer can restrict the movement of air, water, fertilizer and other materials to the roots. It can also harbor bad guys (fungi) which can cause turf diseases. Then, when temperature and moisture conditions are right, a disease infestation can kill the already weakened turf. This is not good.

The schedule is chosen for the seasonally mild temperatures. Grass doesn’t grow as well in cooler temperatures and extreme heat can stress to the turf. So, when it’s spring and everything is in full bloom or it’s fall and autumn has not turned to winter, it’s the perfect time for them to recover more quickly.

Also known as ‘plugging,’ this process will accomplish at least three things: relieve soil compaction, improve the soil mixture (by adding sand) to the highest part of the plant’s root, and reduce the accumulation of excess thatch. For a few weeks of less than perfect conditions, there is a huge long-term benefit.

If you’re making a starting time reservation over the next few weeks, ask the staff in the pro shop when their course plans to aerify. By design or default, this maintenance schedule may by staggered from course to course. You may even get a discounted rate if you choose to play in less than normal conditions.

John Renslow is a PGA professional, VP of Yugi Golf Management, and provides golf instruction at local courses

John Renslow

John Renslow: Breaking down the FedEx Cup playoffs

As life returns to normal in a lot of ways, the culmination of the 2020-2021 season will put the PGA Tour back on track to begin its next year right on schedule.

It’s been a busy summer with two Americans winning gold medals in the Olympic Games and a couple of Californians earning victories in the PGA Championship and British Open.

Now we’re on to the season ending finale, the playoffs, the FedEx Cup. Playoffs? You’re talking playoffs? Yes, and it starts next Thursday.

They’re kind of like the changing of clocks in the fall. It happens every year, but sneaks up on us every time.

Each of these playoff tournaments is on the same Thursday through Sunday schedule as a weekly tour event, but the last two do not have a cut. Due to the reduced field, everyone plays all four days.

The first week is sponsored by Northern Trust and is comprised of the top 125 players on the FedEx Cup point list (essentially a money list). After the Northern Trust, the top 70 golfers in the standings will then qualify for the second event of the playoffs, the BMW Championship in Maryland. Following that event, the top 30 golfers move on to the Tour Championship in Atlanta for the final week.

It all started at the first stop of the tour schedule, last fall at the Safeway Open (Napa) in October. The players are earning points based on the how they finish each week. Sounds a bit like NASCAR points…and it is.

Everybody who plays well, and makes the cut, gets a certain number of points. Using the AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am as an example, the winner received 500 points and the last player to earn a paycheck received a whopping 52 points. After the tour’s final regular season event, those who have enough points to finish 125th or better on the list qualify for the playoffs.

A hopefully simplifying measure is the change in accumulated points. It has been a bit confusing. In other sports, it is generally one team versus another. Or a “heads up” match between opponents.

In golf, we have a field of players. Again, these players have been earning points throughout the season. As is always the primary concern, the sponsors (and viewers) want to see the elite players. They don’t want a format that would have their elite players eliminated by one bad week.

So, playoff week No. 1 stands alone as an event. However, the annual points carry over each week. If a top player does not play well, they will have enough points to get them into the second week of playoffs.

This has been a challenge to follow, because we are watching two things at the same time. We have the current event. Yet, as the week progresses, we wonder if a player near the bottom of the list will make it to the next week based on position or if a player in the middle will get eliminated.

Each week, Get Into Golf will provide a synopsis for that event and try to simplify things as much as possible.

These guys are playing hard all year, FedEx Cup or not. However, it is an added bonus for both the players and fans. For the players it is the opportunity and challenge to compete with the tour’s best, not to mention that the winner of this little shindig gets $15 million.

For us, the fans, we get to see the top players for three consecutive weeks, rather than players taking time off. Throughout the year, some guys will skip a tournament for rest, family or maybe they just don’t like the golf course. But, when you’re talking $15 million and the chance to end the year on top, all of the boys will tighten the laces and tee it up.

John Renslow is a PGA professional, VP of Yugi Golf Management, and provides golf instruction at local courses

John Renslow

John Renslow: A chance at the global stage

The world is getting smaller. Or at least we can see more of it at the same time.

Last week the gathering was 60 men representing 35 countries. Austria, Belgium, Chili, Columbia, the Czech Republic and many more would head for the 1st Tee at Kasumigaseki Country Club near Tokyo, Japan, for the 2020 Olympic Games. Back to that in a moment.

This week, we have 60 women, also representing 35 countries. At the time of this writing, Rolex World No. 1 Ranked American, Nelly Korda, is leading by three strokes going into the final round.

A unique story on the ladies’ side is Aditi Ashok — how the 200th ranked female player could become a household name.

On one side, reality is that the collection of Olympic golfers is not the strongest possible field. Here is a brief example of how this plays out. For the men, on the Official World Golf Ranking (OWGR), eight of the top 10 are from the USA. Yet, each country is limited to four total entries.

Only four of these American men can represent their country in these Olympic Games. Which, in turn means that four of the top-10 players (40% is a significant number) in the world cannot participate. (Also, Bryson DeChambeau (No. 6 OGWR) and, Jon Rahm of Spain (No. 1 OWGR), were out due to positive COVID-19 tests, while Dustin Johnson (No. 2 OGWR) opted out).

Don’t misunderstand, it’s a strong field, but it’s not like a Major with every top ranked player heading to the same site.

However, this is when a “not so great thing” about golf in the Olympics becomes one of the great things about golf in the Olympics. There are fabulous, wonderful players around the world who don’t have the same opportunity to compete with the elite players on a regular basis. Traveling the globe isn’t cheap and gaining access to Tour events isn’t easy.

Staying on Tour is a lot easier than getting on Tour.

So, for players such as Aditi Ashok, this is one well funded, prolific chance to show your stuff. She is doing just that. After three rounds, Aditi is in great shape for a silver medal. Paired with Nelly Korda, the Rolex Women’s No. 1 Ranked player, Ashok gained on shot on the leader with a three-under score of 68.

With one round to go (although there is a certain amount of anxiety over weather) the 200th ranked player in the world from Bengaluru, India, with her mother on the bag, could make a name for herself.

Let’s return to the men’s competition for another situation unique to the Games. “Nobody remembers second place.” We’ve all heard it and generally it’s true. Not in the Olympics, where third place can get you some hardware.

A playoff for the win happens fairly frequently. But, you just don’t see a playoff for the third spot. So, if we’re going to do it, do it right. Seven, count them, seven players moseyed over to tee it up to earn a medals. A few holes later, CT Pan, of Taiwan, took home the bronze.

It’s not a Major and the performance won’t move one up the money list. But the Games have been around thousands of years and provides every participant a chance to knock on door or even burst through a global one.

John Renslow is a PGA professional, VP of Yugi Golf Management, and provides golf instruction at local courses

John Renslow: Olympic golf good for the game

Golf was played at the 1900 Paris Olympics and 1904 St. Louis games. However, gone the way of “tug-of-war” and “pistol dueling,” golf was not featured in the 1908 program and did not return until 2016.

The International Olympic Committee considers the events for each Olympic Games well in advance (for example, new events for 2016 were decided in 2010). Some of the events are discontinued and others are introduced.

In the 2016 Summer Olympics, we saw the addition of golf and rugby. In 2012, additions included women’s boxing, mixed doubles in tennis and a new format for the modern pentathlon.

A total of 26-28 sports (plus additional “disciplines”) have comprised the schedule for the games for the 2008, 2012, 2016 and 2020 Olympic Games (yes, it’s 2021, but who wants to order new signage and memorabilia?).

Baseball and softball, previously dropped from the program, have returned for 2020, as well as karate, surfing and sport climbing.

Golf has returned for its second stint and this continues to be great news for the game.

Players represent their respective countries. Yet, rather than a format that could highlight these countries, such as a team event, or put the spotlight on top players with match play, the format is the same as almost any other week on tour. It is a common four-day, 72-hole stoke play competition.

The difference, of course, is that over 40 countries will be represented by sending individuals or pairs of players that total 120 participants, 60 women and 60 men from around the globe. Bangladesh, Columbia, Hong Kong, the Czech Republic, Israel, and Morocco, for example, have just one golfer in the games, while most countries have four (two men and two women) and South Korea and the United States will have at least six players in the field.

Representing your country in sport is not only patriotic, it is a unique test. Once the tee is in the ground, it’s not for the money, it’s for your homeland and a medal.

Not only is this good for us avid golfers and the viewers, it is a shot in the arm for golf around the world. In many countries around the world, a sport can only receive government funding and major attention if it is an “Olympic sport.”

Wonderful stuff — watching the globe’s best on the world stage and the opportunity for growth in the game, hopefully in Olympic proportions.

John Renslow is a PGA professional, VP of Yugi Golf Management, and provides golf instruction at local courses

John Renslow

John Renslow: Future is bright

A couple of weeks ago, we touched on the topic, the curiosity of Phil Mickelson’s sunglasses. Why is he wearing them? And, why don’t we know anything about them?

New lens technology is encouraging more tour players to wear them and, due to contractual obligations, the identity of Phil’s new shades will remain a mystery for the time being.

Since then, your feedback has been consistent.

“Geez, John, you left us hanging. What type should I buy? How much do they cost? Where should I get them?”

Once again, Get Into Golf is here to help.

Let’s start off with the two manufacturers that are most likely the type Phil is wearing. One is the Mykita Caleb. These are a high-end, stylish pair for affluent, active people.

Remember, Phil’s explanation for donning the frames was general eye protection. He was using some medical cream on his face. This must have caused reflection and he was squinting a lot. They didn’t move around during his swing and his eyes were less strained at the end of the round.

The other possibility, being bantered about, is a company out of Hong Kong known as USwing. They claim that their lenses are designed in a such a way as to assist golfers in reading greens. Topographical idiosyncrasies and/or undulations would be more easily visible.

Consider this, however. Tour players can afford virtually anything they want to improve their game. Guys or gals that look to make millions for playing a game would certainly spend (if not provided by the manufacturer) significant sums to lower their scores.

If USwing sunglasses really did what they claim, we would see nearly every tour player pulling these lenses out of the bag every time they reached a green. Take a cursory view of the green. Review your notes. Slide the magic glasses over your nose and presto. But, no. We don’t see that.

Phil wanted to protect his eyes. Unless glasses cause negative optical differences, you should too. For some, the lenses effect our ability to judge distances or change the shape of objects.

According to the Mayo Clinic, we need protective eyewear that blocks 100% of both UVA and UVB rays (UV400), screens out 75% to 90% of visible light, has lenses without scratches or imperfections and are gray in shade for proper color recognition.

There are debates on the lens color. This is your preference.

Oakley Flak 2.0 Golf Sunglasses — All Oakley lenses block 100% UVA/UVB, but these frames are specifically designed to reduce or eliminate motion during your swing. You’ve likely seen Adam Scott wearing a pair. $140 on Amazon.

Adidas Kumacross 2.0 Sunglasses — Lightweight, flexible, and a wrap-around style. You know when the lenses aren’t big enough and you get some side distractions? This wrap around is a big help toward maximum protection. $79 on Amazon.

JMarti JM01 Golf Sunglasses — Not only are these glasses UV400, they claim to be unbreakable and weigh less than an ounce. This is a very good value option. The flip side is that with this low price the lenses may be easier to scratch. $20 on Amazon.

Start here and enjoy shopping, because we know our future is bright!

John Renslow is a PGA professional, VP of Yugi Golf Management, and provides golf instruction at local courses

John Renslow

John Renslow: Golf is not a game of perfection

We all do it.

It sounds like, “I would have been fine, if it wasn’t for this!” Or, “Why do these stupid things keep happening to me?”

It’s human nature. For some reason, very rarely is our first thought a self-indictment. Our typical first reaction is to blame the person or the object closest to us at the time.

No one is completely innocent of this and no one is always guilty. Similar to selfishness, we’re all flawed to some extent. Some folks are really selfish and some folks are not. If there was a scale, most of us would be somewhere in the middle.

Mother Theresa is on the low end of the scale and name your favorite dictator for the high mark.

When we’re on the golf course and that day, that round, means more to you than usual, our threshold becomes much more sensitive. A shot is hit very poorly and we hear, amongst the cursing, “I just got this new putter and I haven’t made anything since!”

Or, my personal favorite that I have heard many, many times, “I’ve never played this bad before!” Everyone knows that the person has played that bad before. We just understand this position, we’ve all been in it. We provide some encouraging remarks.

For most of us, this moment doesn’t last very long. The score is gone, the round is gone, and tomorrow is another day.

But, what if you’re an elite player, ranked among the world’s best? During each round, most of the shots you hit and virtually everything you say is recorded, moreover broadcast.

Bryson Dechambeau had a rough day on Thursday. It was his first round of The Open Championship and he was having a tough time finding fairways. “My driver sucks!”

Yep, you heard it right. It wasn’t his fault, it’s that blasted driver. The British newspapers jumped all over him, with one describing his behavior as that of an “8 year old.”

In the moment, our brains don’t function correctly and we say things we wish we could take back. He was likely not thinking about his golf club (driver) manufacturer, who is paying him to play and represent their product. They must be very pleased with this ringing endorsement.

Getting back to center. Golf is not a game of perfection. Essentially, it is a game of the good, missed shots. Our bodies have weaknesses, our brains are inconsistent, and no golfer has ever had the equivalent of a 300 game in bowling.

We play (remember that…play) to enjoy time with friends, get some exercise, breathe in nature’s scenery, and, yes, improve our performance. Knowing that there is no perfect, take the bad shots with the good.

Just keep those thoughts of blame or embarrassment and turn them into a learning experience. You don’t have to be happy, we all want to play well. An applicable, well chosen, one-word exclamation might be appropriate. But leave it at that.

For us, the moment, the round, the day will be behind us soon. Likely as early as the next hole or perhaps the 19th hole. And, we don’t have our mistakes made into tomorrow’s headlines.

The game will be fun again soon. I promise.

John Renslow is a PGA professional, VP of Yugi Golf Management, and provides golf instruction at local courses

John Renslow

John Renslow: The Open: Standing the test of time

It is the oldest golf tournament in the world. We call it the “The British Open.”

It is The Open Championship played annually in Great Britain. Similar to the United States Open Championship played in San Diego a few weeks ago, the British Open Championship is available to virtually all comers (granted, if a player doesn’t have a scoring average less than 75 for 18 holes, they cannot try to qualify, but anyone with a legitimate chance can give it a go).

It is known to European golfers as “The Open.” For us, this simple title may translate to the U.S. Open, but for our friends across the pond there is no ambiguity. We give them a pass on this prideful moniker, because theirs is the first golf championship. Ever. The inaugural Open Championship was played on Wednesday, Oct. 17, 1860.

The prize was the Challenge Belt, paid for by members of Prestwick Golf Club. Clubs around England and Scotland were each invited to send three players to compete in the event, which was held over three rounds on the twelve-hole links course. If a player won the tournament three years in succession, the belt was his to keep.

Old Tom Morris, the “Keeper of the Green” at Prestwick, was the local favorite, but Willie Park took the first Open Championship with a score of 174 (remember this was for three rounds and there were only twelve holes). Then, 10 years later in 1870, Young Tom Morris (that would be “Junior”) won The Open for the third time and took possession of the Challenge Belt.

Young Tom would win again in 1872. Unfortunately, the Earl of Eglinton (good ‘ol Earl), who had provided the Challenge Belt, decided against any more belts. Perhaps he thought no one would win three in a row.

So, several members of the Prestwick Golf Club donated some money for a new prize. In 1873, the Golf Champion Trophy, now commonly referred to as the Claret Jug, was made by Mackay Cunningham & Company of Edinburgh. The first Open Champion to receive the new trophy was the 1873 winner, Tom Kidd, but Tom Morris Jr.’s name was the first to be engraved on it as the 1872 winner.

This year, The Open begins on Thursday. The site is the Royal St. George’s Golf Club in Sandwich, England.

We saw Phil Mickelson set the new longevity record by winning the PGA Championship, at 50 years of age, in May. Of course, he’ll be playing next week as well as several other youngsters including, Darren Clark (55), Ernie Els (51), Steward Cink (48), and David Duval (49).

It would make Old Tom Morris proud as he won his final Open at the age of 46. But, they will need to bring their “A” game with the world’s best players all having designs on the Claret Jug. Television coverage begins before dawn (don’t forget that nine-hour time difference) and it will be fun to watch!

John Renslow is a PGA professional, VP of Yugi Golf Management, and provides golf instruction at local courses

John Renslow


John Renslow: Take a closer look at on-course eyewear

“The future’s so bright, I gotta wear shades!”

Many golfers have been wrestling with protective eyewear for years. We know the sun emits some harmful rays, and we would like to stop squinting for the better part of five hours, but wearing them during a round of golf can have its drawbacks.

Sunglasses tend to move as we swing. The pair we chose for style is not conducive to an athletic motion. Sure, those classic Ray-Bans (made famous by Hollywood, aviation, or the Eagles) look great on you. Yet, they’re not designed to stay in place while tilting your head down and making a golf swing.

We are not wearing them on overcast, cool days. The sun is shining and we’re on the move. That perspiration (OK, glow) introduces an adverse element in the goal of harmony between frame and face.

Also, the lenses may cause a disruption that is critical to a successful shot. For many golfers, sunglasses can cause problems with depth perception and contrast. When one stands over the ball, the ball may appear closer than it actually is. Around the greens, our view of distance between objects and changes in elevation may seem a little like one of those mirrors at a fun park.

For years, we have seen PGA Tour players with the sunglasses on before and after a shot. But during the shot, they are worn backwards or placed above the bill of the cap.

Recently, however, we are seeing more professionals wearing their shades throughout the entire round. Just a few weeks ago, Phil Mickelson won the PGA Championship, viewing each shot through a pair of stylish glasses.

Who makes them? What are they? Do they help his game or is this more about protection?

We don’t know. Well, we know that Phil would not don some equipment that would impair his game. But, wearing them could simply mean that they are protective and game neutral.

Phil Mickelson drives on the third tee during the first round of the Rocket Mortgage Classic golf tournament on Thursday at the Detroit Golf Club in Detroit.
Associated Press

When asked about the glasses some time ago, Phil said that a medical cream on his face inspired their use. He had to wear some protection for his eyes. This information was issued with a bit of humor and seemed a bit coy, which may provide some insight into the manufacturer.

One strong possibility is Mykita. Mykita makes sophisticated, attractive eyewear, and the style looks very similar to a type in their line. They’re expensive, but Phil can afford virtually anything or would be given whatever he wants.

Yet, there is nothing noteworthy on their site or information about sports or game improvement. They simply sell high-end ($500) eyewear.

Enter the USWING Green Reader. These glasses are specifically developed to protect a player’s eyes and improve their view of slopes and depth. According to USWING, the lens filtering technology is designed to improve the golfer’s ability to judge distance, see slopes, and grass patterns.

One style looks just like Mykita.

Why don’t we know? One, Phil has a contract with Callaway, which also sells sunglasses. Two, USWING is a growing company that is sold almost exclusively in Asia.

So, a bit of intrigue, but the point is, with technology improving, take another look at some sunglasses for the golf course. Get UV protection of 400 or greater. Make sure the frames are suitable for your frame. Even if there is more moisture, we don’t want movement during the swing.

And now, look for lenses that are designed for sports, hopefully golf specific. Commonly, players stay away from the gray colors and lean toward the browns and rose colors.

In addition to protecting your eyes, you may view some lower scores.

John Renslow is a PGA professional, VP of Yugi Golf Management, and provides golf instruction at local courses

John Renslow


John Renslow: First, know the rules

Ignorance is not bliss. In fact, knowing the Rules of Golf may help your score. Yet, most of us tend to shy away from things we might consider official, especially if they are documents.

Perhaps they’re confusing and we wouldn’t understand them. Or, it is likely they’re boring. Have we read our organization’s bylaws, browsed through real estate paperwork or nestled into a cozy chair with the Magna Carta?

We touched on an important clarification a week or two ago, the choice by the Rules Committee was to play the sand on the PGA Championship’s golf course essentially as “waste bunkers.” Players could touch the sand with practice swings and ground their club before swinging.

However, several years ago on a different golf course, this same PGA Championship Committee decided that all of these areas with sand were played as hazards. Several of these areas looked like unkempt, waste areas, but no, they were defined as bunkers.

If you’re a tour player leading the PGA Championship by a shot with one hole to play, it would have been very useful to know about this unique “local rule” that was provided to every player prior to play.

Also posted in the locker room, it read: “All areas of the course that were designed and built as sand bunkers will be played as bunkers (hazards), whether or not they have been raked. This will mean that many bunkers positioned outside of the ropes, as well some areas of bunkers inside the ropes, close to the rope line, will likely include numerous footprints, heel prints and tire tracks during the play of the Championship. Such irregularities of surface are a part of the game and no free relief will be available from these conditions.”

You see, we all know (or you ought to know) that it is against the rules to “ground” your club in a hazard (touch the sand with your club prior to your swing), which includes prepared sand bunkers. Otherwise, players could move sand around the ball, improving their playing condition.

According to the Rules of Golf, “A ‘bunker’ is a hazard consisting of a prepared area of ground, often a hollow, from which turf or soil has been removed and replaced with sand or the like.”

There are other areas known as “bunkers,” but they don’t fall under the definition of a “hazard.” For example, a “pot” bunker is a depression with growing grass (not that kind of grass) and a “waste” bunker, which typically contains sand, is not regularly maintained.

The year was 2010. Dustin Johnson walks down the 18th fairway and arrives at his ball, his tee shot has come to rest on sand. Granted, this is a very small piece of real estate and people have been walking in and around it all week, yet the rule is clear.

“We made it the No. 1 item on our local rules sheet simply to explain that all of the bunkers that were designed and built as sand bunkers on this golf course would be played that way,” said Mark Wilson, co-chairman of the PGA of America rules committee.

Nonetheless, Johnson, not considering this, grounds his club and proceeds to play the shot.

“Obviously, I know the Rules of Golf and I can’t ground my club in a bunker, but that was just one situation I guess. Maybe I should have looked to the rule sheet a little harder,“ Johnson said at the time.

Wow. “Maybe I should have looked to the rule sheet a little harder.”

There have been a number of situations over the years that will make you feel like a player got the short end of the stick, that life and golf sometimes aren’t fair. When Craig Stadler is penalized for kneeling on a towel, rather than get his pants wet, it just doesn’t seem quite right. When Michelle Wie is disqualified for leaving the scoring area without signing her scorecard, it just seems a bit legalistic.

Johnson’s decision on that Sunday was different. The rules are in place to protect the field and provide equity to the players. Unfortunately, not knowing this rule was very costly. Penalized two strokes for the infraction Johnson finished tied for fifth at nine-under par. Two shots lower at 11-under par would have been a tie for first and a playoff to determine the champion.

Let this be a lesson to us all. First, know your rules. Second, if there is any uncertainty, don’t be afraid to ask a question. It may even help your score.

John Renslow is a PGA professional, VP of Yugi Golf Management, and provides golf instruction at local courses

John Renslow