Officials clarify bunker rule at Volvo Champions event before play starts

royal golf club
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The desert layout at Royal Golf Club in Bahrain prompted European Tour officials to declare that all non-grass areas would be treated as waste areas, not bunkers.
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PA Sport

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Published: Wednesday, January 26, 2011 | 1:07 p.m.

Padraig Harrington fell foul of "trial by television" last week, but fans at home are being told not to turn him in this week if they see him grounding his club in the sand.

For the purposes of this week’s inaugural Volvo Golf Champions on the European Tour, there are deemed to be no bunkers, just acres of sandy waste areas.

The European Tour's ruling allows players to take practice swings, move loose impediments and ground the club "lightly behind the ball" in all sand areas.

"We have taken this decision to provide clarity for the players,” said European Tour hief Referee Andy McFee, the man who broke the bad news to Harrington in Abu Dhabi after he accidentally nudged his ball forward while picking up his marker on a green,.

"The golf course is absolutely fine, but the blurring of the boundaries between desert and bunker, whilst visually attractive, potentially provides a major problem of definition,” he explained. "As this is common throughout the course and not restricted to the odd situation here and there, we felt this was the best way to exercise our duty to define the course properly.

"It will lead to some odd-looking situations, but that is infinitely preferable to players incurring penalties,” he added. "As we know, television viewers are quick to call or write in when they see something wrong, but on this occasion we are alerting them, in advance, that this course is different."

Harrington is aiming to bounce straight back from his false start to the new season. Everything in the Dubliner's garden looked rosy when he began with a 7-under-par 65, but that was as far as he got.

"If you turn up at a tournament you never want to be talking about other things and be distracted," he said. "So this week has been very much about getting into this tournament and last week was last week.

"It really is a blank canvas this week, but I'll be a bit more anxious because you always want to get a good start to the year,” he added. "People see 65 and maybe they are thinking I've solved all the problems in my game and I'm going to shoot 65 every day, but that's not the reality."

Ian Poulter also did not start 2011 with four rounds last week, but that had nothing to do with falling foul of the rules of golf --  he simply missed the cut. That cost Poulter his place in the world's top 10, but he will fancy his chances of rectifying that against a much weaker field.

Martin Kaymer, Rory McIlroy and Graeme McDowell -- first, second and third last week – didn’t enter the new event and nor did world No. 1 Lee Westwood, while Masters champion Phil Mickelson has returned home.

World No. 9 Paul Casey is the top-ranked player on view, while 2010 Dubai World Championship winner Robert Karlsson and Spain's Sergio Garcia play for the first time this year.