Contrary to popular belief or common topics of discussion, the bunkers do have sand in them.
Let's remember that the bunkers on this property are now more than 30 years old. How many of us drive a 30-year-old car? More than likely, the roof on our homes are less than 30 years old. If we want every bunker on the property to play similar in texture, then we need to renovate the bunkers on all 36 holes. That being said, the bunkers are not going to be renovated for another few years, at best. While bunkers are on the master plan, it will take a solid financial commitment to completely rebuild and add new sand.
Each spring, when the golf courses start to wake up for the playing season, the bunkers receive a fresh cut edge around them, weeds and debris are removed from the winter months of neglect and the bunker sand depth is checked throughout the bunker. The sand gets moved around in the bunkers by wind, rain and golfers.
The goal is to have four inches of sand throughout the floor of the bunker. To accomplish the proper depth of sand, we usually move sand from the low end of the bunker to the uphill end and to the heavily played areas. If moving and re-leveling sand does not provide enough sand depth, then we add additional sand. The goal is to always start the golfing season out with every bunker having sufficient sand depth. Completing this task usually takes three to four weeks—and that depends on the staff level, weather, and this year—availability of sand.
Sometimes when a player thinks there’s no sand in the bunker, it’s just really firm and compact. At the same time, I’m not denying that on occasion we have a thin sand layer in part of the bunker. The sand in the bunkers is not consistent due to the contamination of the native soil around the bunker edge leaking into the sand during a rain storm. When the surrounding soil bleeds into the bunker, it fills the pore space between the sand particles and makes the sand mix much tighter which leads to much firmer sand in the bunker.
The sand also retains water longer when soil has been contaminated. If this sand doesn’t get cultivated with a heavy rake, it remains tight and compact, which feels like you’re hitting off of a hard surface. This contamination is from the over 30 years of rain events, leaf debris, wind and snow. Even sand added to the existing sand tends to get contaminated by mixing together over time. The best fix would be to rebuild and put a liner system in to keep the sand separated from the native soil contamination.
At this time, bunker renovation is not happening, so we’ll be finishing the spring bunker work in the next two weeks. Our goal will be to cultivate the sand more often after rain events, which will keep the sand looser. Last summer is a good example of several rain events which caused the sand to be compact and we didn’t loosen the sand often enough.
When entering and existing the bunker, it’s always wise to use the area with the least amount of slope. When a player walks up the steep bunker face and pushes the sod downward, it causes damage to the turf and allows soil to enter the bunker. More often than not, the sod damaged area ends up enlarging from additional damage that tends to follow. Please exit the bunker from the back edge where the slope is minimal.
Happy spring to everyone and hopefully we can enjoy golf the way we are accustomed to soon.
- Jeff Holmes, CGCS, Golf Course Manager