I am on both sides of the Dustin Johnson debate.

He should have known better. Whenever sand/dirt is in play and it’s not obvious, I always ask an official. Plus the rules were all over the place and I always read that local rules sheet before I play.

That being said, the rules of golf are ridiculous and penal. My problem with this particular ruling is the official there is not obligated to say anything unless he is asked. The rules of golf are so complicated, even top flight officials need a special book of rulings.

It’s like trying to do your taxes and deal with the IRS without a CPA or tax attorney.

I know several officials that volunteer their services when they think their might be an issue, while others sneak around hoping to nail players with a penalty.

I know there are many that are going to criticize my point of view, but until you experience an issue with the rules in a big time situation, it’s like a man discussing the pain of childbirth.

Here is a personal story. The day I almost got banned from golf.


During a Nationwide event, I almost let my bad temper get the best of me. I was playing decent on Saturday after making the cut and I had chance to finish top 25 and get in the next event.

On my 11th hole I hit a drive left into a bush and had to take an unplayable lie. I measured my 2 club lengths and saw I needed all of it to have a clear shot. I tried to drop my ball as far out as possible and it landed outside the two club lengths.

I picked the ball up and was about to take my second drop, when an official I didn’t recognize jumped out from behind the bush and yelled at me, “why did you pick that ball up, it was in play?”

I informed Nurse Ratchett that the ball landed outside the two club lengths and I needed to drop again. He nodded his head and I dropped again. This time the drop went closer to the hole, so I picked my ball up and placed it where the second drop landed…as per the rules of golf, or so I thought.

I looked at the official and said, “OK?” assuming I was asking him if my ball was in play properly. He gave me no response and walked away.

I hit the ball on the green and two putted for a bogey. The head of Nationwide officials drives up to me and tells me I have been assessed a two stroke penalty for playing from the wrong spot. Apparently, the first drop that landed outside the two club lengths is treated as if it never existed and I was required to take another drop before I placed it.

I first asked the head of Nationwide officials who this eggnog was that was in my grill. He told me he was a visiting USGA official. I then told him I could not be penalized because said official told me my ball was in play properly and you can’t be penalized for doing what an official tells you.

The head of officials agreed and pulled away. He comes back two holes later and asks me exactly what I said. I rehashed the incident. I was then informed that saying “OK?” does not constitute asking if my ball was in play properly and the USGA official, who was hiding behind the bush, is not obliged to tell me anything unless I specifically ask if my ball is in play properly. The head of officials apologized to me profusely, but there was nothing he could do.

Needless to say I was angry and I shot a million the last few holes and was now out of contention. After I putted out on 18 I had to be physically restrained by another official and my caddy because I was off the give this USGA official what for. Actually I was going to kick his ass…literally.

I yelled to him, “even if you see me tomorrow cheating on purpose, I suggest you stay away from me.”

…and he did.




  1. Bob

    The tournament is over and the hay is in the barn, but even a casual observer knows DJ got hosed to some degree. Now the question is how to address this so it does not happen again.

    The crux of the issue is this:

    I know several officials that volunteer their services when they think their might be an issue, while others sneak around hoping to nail players with a penalty.

    The rules are not there to help or penalize any individual golfer, just to keep the playing conditions equal for all. With the game on the line, an official should strive to create a penalty free environment, not lurk and wait to zing someone on a very questionable call.

  2. John

    The bigger issue would have been if he hadn’t been given a penalty and then made the putt. Everybody would be screaming, HE SHOULDN’T BE THE WINNER, HE GROUNDED HIS CLUB IN A BUNKER!

    I mean, there are bunkers everywhere on this course, and that it didn’t occur to him that he was in a bunker, than it’s his own fault.

    • matt

      I’m pretty sure that %95 of the people I’ve talked to, polls that I’ve seen and discussions that I have read agree that the entire incident was the PGA’s fault. Their inability to rule the bunkers in the gallery areas ‘Through the Green’ and making it up to the player to recognize what a bunker is and is not according to the designers original plan; then add the difficulty of not being able to see the entire area because people are swarming over him and you have the incident that occurred – The PGA Screwed DJ

      Monte…I hope you see that USGA official again – he was a chicken$#it. And the head official that ‘apologized profusely’ isn’t clear either, his nose is still brown from his dealings with the USGA.

  3. Steve Bishop

    He got hosed. Everyone knows it. But being hosed is part of the game. Luck doesn’t just happen on the bounce of the ball. Luck is inadvertently doing something you shouldn’t.

    I was brushing away some dirt off of my line for a putt when I lost my balance and the palm of my hand touched my line. Penalty. Yes, penalty. No one but me even noticed it, but I realized it as soon as it happened.

    Dustin should have at least thought, if for only a moment, “Hey, I’m in some sand. I wonder if this is a bunker.” He didn’t even need to see an official about it, he could have just played the shot assuming it was a bunker “just in case”. It was a careless mistake, but the mistake was his and no one elses. They are the same for everyone else and anyone else who would have ended up in that bunker would have had to do the same thing.

    That all being said, I’m not heartless. Some rules are just ridiculous. I still agree with Arnold Palmer that if your ball ends up in a divot you should be able to call it ground under repair. Why they don’t change that I may never know. Hit a screaming 300-320 yard drive down the middle and some hack from 2 weeks ago who tried to bury his ball with a lob wedge didn’t bother doing anything about the missing chunk of real estate. Good luck getting your ball out of the crater let alone end up on the green with any sort of birdie opportunity.

    • banchiline

      ” DJ got hosed?” uuumm……………. He hosed himself .

      The rules were posted for all players to see. Even on the mirrors in the locker room . They were given rules sheets . Just as they are every week . NW said after “we never read em”………

      Regardless of how one feels about officials and the ensuing conduct , if DJ or his caddie had read the rules sheet maybe this wouldn’t be a situation .

      There may be lots of blame to go around but the buck stops with the player.

  4. James H

    I’m blaming it on the design of the course. They built the course for big time tournaments, where you’d want many many spectators. If you look at it on Google Earth you’ll see the bunkers are really the only place where people can stand along the fairway. The tournament organizers had no choice but to let the spectators roam free in that area, which in my opinion ultimately lead to the confusion and the mistake DJ made. Dye should take a hint from the Scottsdale Open. If you want big crowds you better plan for it!

  5. Mike

    what debate? DJ just should have taken a glance on the yardage book in his pocket and he would have knwon that he is in a hazard (bunker), whats a bullshit this debate is.

  6. steve lyons

    Just wanted to add that the rules of golf are designed so that you can have competitive play without have an official personally observe all play.

    You could not have competitive football, baseball or gymnastics without live oversite from a referee, umpire, or judge.

    And it’s completely impractical to have different sets of rules when there happens to be an official present or the cameras are rolling.

  7. Dion

    @Steve Bishop – If there’s so much confusion over what’s a bunker imagine the fun and games over what’s a divot.

  8. meateater

    The PGA blew it, plain and simple. No one knew that was a bunker. People were standing and sitting in it, obscuring the contours and it had grass growing in it. Of course, it is the player’s ultimate responsibility, but it is just totally unacceptable that a major tournament is decided like this.

    Basically, all the work the PGA has done to rescue its tournament from non-major status was destroyed by their own incompetence. Let’s drop the pretense that this is a major. The fourth major is the Players.

  9. kbp

    Given the proliferation of the DVR and given the fact that there was max TV coverage on all four days, I’m surprised that no one has gone back and found any previous instances of other players grounding their club in these wayward bunkers. I wouldn’t have been surprised if one of the other leaders had made the same mistake, with the result of being being disqualification after the fact.

    First thing I thought was, “Are Bubba and Kaymer running back very wayward recovery for the whole week in their minds?”


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