the bunker
1 6 mins 2 yrs

A round of golf presents players with a variety of challenges to overcome if they are to post a winning score. The uneven bunker buffet at my course puts sand on the menu for those wishing to shoot a low round. I don’t know about you and your regular golf course, but I want some consistency in the presentation of bunkers. By this I mean the type and volume of sand used in the traps. My understanding of bunkers is that they are supposed to allow the golf ball to gather at their flat floor and not get hung up on the walls. Too much soft sand in the walls of the bunker prevent this and cause balls to stay up on steeply sloped surfaces. Playing an explosion shot perched precariously on shifting sands high atop a bunker wall is a very tough gig.

Bunkers Are Hazards

Bunkers are hazards and should provide a penalty for errant shots but not mean impossibly difficult challenges to extracting your golf ball. Glib folk will say, well you shouldn’t hit your ball into bunkers in the first place, but many courses are designed with scores of sand traps around the greens and fairways. A golfer just wants a fair challenge to test his or her skills. At my home course there are bunkers containing so much sand you would think that you are in the dunes down at the beach. The walls of these bunkers are so thick with dense fine sand that golf balls embed there, even when they trickle in from the fairway. Too much sand in the wrong places mean stances where you cannot get enough purchase to play an effective explosion shot. Buried balls under lips so far beneath your feet it is like digging for gold under a rock ledge from above.

Who Is Responsible for Bunkers on Golf Courses?

So, who is responsible for the general state of bunkers on a golf course? There is a golf course supervisor on the committee, which is a voluntary position, who monitors the state of the course. The greens committee and club captain are also in the loop when it comes to the state of the course, and this includes the bunkers. The green staff under the keeper of the greens are paid staff, who actually do the physical work of maintaining bunkers. The level of monitoring of golf course hazards is a moot point. I have found that there can be some issues in course management when you have people in voluntary positions overseeing paid employees. Things get missed and a lack of follow up means failings in the presentation of the course.

Bitching About Bunkers: Sour Grapes?

It is not a perfect world, of course, and life goes on just the same. Bitching about the state of bunkers can seem petty in the larger scheme of things. Golf, however, is a game of perfect, whatever certain authors claim. The Scottish game demands you count every stroke with no exceptions and there are no get out of jail cards. You can suck it up and keep schtum or you can, maybe, make some noise and agitate for change. I know that most agents in this microcosm are doing their best and want to present the best golf course they can. The uneven bunker buffet at my course is the result of a number of inputs including economic considerations. The price of sand and the frequency with which the traps need to be refilled stands tall in the minds of some. Dump a lot of sand in them and they will need less attention going forward.

I have heard from some members that it is the club golfers raking the sand up the walls, which contributes to their state and the volume of sand there. I have not observed this myself but there may be some veracity to this. My most recent experience in a par three greenside bunker on my course is that there was so much sand in the back entrance to the bunker, where my ball had remained due to the volume of sand, that I had to play a shot to a raised surface up against the back lip. The outcome was not good, as you might imagine, lodging then under the front lip in masses of more dense fine sand. To cut a long story short it ruined a fine round. It sticks in your craw, mentally speaking, and gathering oneself for the final few holes was deflating. Golf is a tough game, and we all have our hard luck tales. The call for bunker consistency has been a common refrain at every club that I have regularly played at. Nobody is particularly to blame and there is no malice intended. However, it seems like another element of course management that every club should be focusing on improving to advance the quality of their track.


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