Whistling Straits is no walk on the beach

To get close to the action, fans at Whistling Straits needs to walk carefully over wet, grassy mounds like these on the second hole.
David Dusek

SHEBOYGAN, Wis. — Inside this year’s PGA Championship media kit was a pedometer, a clip-on device that measures your steps. It’s part of the PGA of America’s efforts to show how healthy golf can be.

In order to do my fair share, and to find out just how grueling the 7,500-yard Whistling Straits can be, I decided to wear the pedometer and walk all 18 holes Wednesday morning.

I started as Nick Watney and Adam Scott teed off on the first hole, and right away I knew this was going to be a long slog. The knee-high fescue and mounds make walking anywhere off the fairways tricky, even on the best days. But early morning thunderstorms added water to the mix, making everything slicker than a used car salesman.

I’d already worked up a lather, and clocked 2,300 steps on the pedometer, when I saw Sergio Garcia, Bo Van Pelt and Charles Howell on the sixth green.

After signing a big PGA Championship commemorative ball, Garcia carried it down the path toward the seventh hole. “Oh no, Sergio, you’re not gonna steal it, are you?” called out a woman from behind the ropes.

Garcia flashed the smile that made potential sponsors swoon back in 1999. As he reached the tee box below the fans, he turned and unleashed a left-footed kick that would have made Spanish World Cup coach Vicente del Bosque proud. It went straight into the legs of a fan and rolled back down the hill. His second kick, more of a punt, sailed high through the air. It dropped right into the waiting arms of the father whose son was the owner of the ball.

I reached the 12th tee box, which is shared with the 16th, in 4,977 steps. Rain started to fall again as Rickie Fowler walked off the 16th tee beside Ryder Cup captain Corey Pavin.

Meanwhile, 30 yards away on the same tee, Vijay Singh, winner of the 2004 PGA Championship here, stood under an umbrella next to Davis Love, the 1997 PGA Championship winner, and Justin Leonard. After they hit their shots to the 12th fairway, they stood and looked skyward, hoping the solid gray clouds were going to miraculously part. They didn’t, and the rain started to fall harder.

After five minutes, putting on a wry southern account, Singh said, “Well gentlemen, it has been an absolute pleasure …” The temptation of a dry seat inside one of the nearby Mercedes SUVs, waiting to shuttle players off the course in the event of lightning, was too much for him to resist.

Sloshing in the rain to the 14th tee box, I was waved under a gazebo by Paul Casey, who was waiting out the rain with Stewart Cink, Lucas Glover and Frederick Andersson Hed, who was passing the time by playing a video game Casey had shown him on his iPhone.

Cink told a story about leaving the sunroof of his truck open during a rainstorm, only to find his iPod Nano nearly completely submerged in a cup holder. He was able to save the device after taking the advice of one his Twitter followers and putting it in a bowl of rice.

Once the rain stopped and I made it to the 18th green, I popped open the pedometer to see my result: 7,359 steps.

My advice to you if you plan to come to this year’s PGA Championship? Bring crampons. Now pass me a Leinenkugel and a pretzel.