Don’t Let “Bunkergate” Stop You From Rushing to Play Whistling Straits


Lake Michigan is so big it's like an ocean, which is why The Straits course is such a good approximation of a Scottish links.

As soon as I saw the controversy swirling around Dustin Johnson’s 72nd hole penalty to knock him off the top of the Leaderboard at the last Major of the season, the PGA Championship, my heart dropped.

Not for Johnson, but rather for Destination Kohler and its Straits Course at Whistling Straits.

Destination Kohler is one of the four “Majors’ of American golf resorts. Rank them as you may, varying by quality of golf, lodging and facilities, there is little doubt that Bandon Dunes, Pebble Beach, Kiawah and Destination Kohler are the best of the best when it comes to golf travel. You could easily make the argument that across the board on food, facilities, golf, and lodging, Destination Kohler is number one in the country. I am not going to make that argument – at least not today – but I am going to implore you to go, and not be influenced by Johnson’s mistake.

As the announcers dutifully pointed out, the course has 1200 bunkers, or about 1100 more than the Old Course at St. Andrews, and probably more than any other course you will ever play. As you saw, some are quite small, and many look more like waste areas than the modern, precisely cut bunker. Almost every course in Arizona and any other desert setting, along with many in the Carolinas, including Kiawah, are lined with vast waste areas that encompass far more sand than there is to get in trouble in at the Straits.

I guess what I am saying is, the course is awesome, you should play it, and don’t worry about some rules official rushing out and changing your score after your round – they have great service, but I assure you that ain’t going to happen.

I’m putting my money where my mouth is and heading back to Kohler ASAP. I just got tickets to Milwaukee and will be eagerly teeing it up on the Straits, as well as the resort’s other fine courses, in just a few weeks and will give you full, detailed, course by course and comprehensive resort tips and info to plan your own trip.

Resorts and even countries (Wales in the Ryder Cup for instance) go to great lengths and pay big bucks to attract top tournaments so their courses can shine on TV, and make people say “wow, I’d love to play that!,” and I would hate to think anyone comes away with a negative opinion of this great course simply because Dustin Johnson failed to consider exactly what kind of sand his ball was sitting on. If you play golf a lot and you look at the back of the scorecard when you play, almost every course has special rules pertaining to specific boundaries, areas, or holes. But most of us, myself included, largely ignore such local rules and details – because we don’t play for our livelihood on the PGA Tour. If I did, I would read the rules sheet they make every effort to have players read, and if I had a full time rules official walking with me just to answer any question I might have, I would ask him about my ball being in the sand. End of discussion. I don’t blame Johnson, I feel bad for him, but having the media call this “bunkergate” and make like it is some conspiracy to steal his win is idiotic.

We all know that golf is full of arbitrary and often capricious rules and decisions on rules, and a lot of them make absolutely zero sense, and seem to exist solely so that old timers can get golf related positions as rules officials. But nonetheless, they are the rules these guys play for money under, so they ought to known and follow them – or at least consider them.

A couple of weeks ago, I poked fun at the weekly email roundtable conducted by the Sports Illustrated Golf Group for overwhelmingly concluding  – totally in error – that winning two Majors in one season on the LPGA Tour was more difficult than shooting 59 on the PGA Tour. In the aftermath of this bunker issue that they seem determined to make into a bunker controversy, I once again have to ridicule one of the comments.

John Garrity, contributing writer to Sports Illustrated, remarked nonsensically during the weekly SI Golf Group email roundtable that:

“I agree that those bunkers SHOULDN’T be considered bunkers.”

Agree with who?

You’ve got to be the only person who could say that with a straight face. Well, I don’t think your opinion should be considered an opinion. Maybe your opinion should be considered a chocolate milkshake, as long as we’re making absolutely no sense at all.

That’s sort of like me, when I play golf, rationalizing that the bogie I just made shouldn’t be considered a bogey because a birdie would make me a lot happier. Maybe when I get to Kohler I will tee it up under Garrity Rules and shoot the best score of my life.

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