As Old Tom Morris used to say; "bunkers are not a place of pleasure, they’re for punishment and repentance."
What to do about bunkers?
After a busy winter, with a lot of the bunkers getting their faces rebuilt and being left as ‘ground under repair’ to allow the turf walls to take root and stabilise, greenstaff have been busy topping up the bunkers with sand and aim to have them all back in play by the beginning of the season.
This is a time of year where there are often comments about the bunkers not having enough sand in them. Usually, this is not the case but rather the wind has blown the sand over to one area of the bunker leaving most of the hard base exposed.
The sand used in the bunkers on the Old, New and Eden courses is taken from the West Sands beach under license from Marine Scotland and the grains of sand have a very small particle size. This means that when it is dry, as it often is in the spring with cold drying winds, it is very prone to blowing. Hence why bunkers on Links courses are of the revetted type in an attempt to keep the sand in them.
It’s not unusual for greenstaff to spend a lot of man hours preparing the bunkers each morning redistributing the sand, then finding by mid-morning each bunker looking like it hadn’t been touched for a week. We sometimes even douse the sand with water from the irrigation system to stop it blowing!
Adding more sand will not solve the problem. Any excess will simply blow out onto the surrounding turf while in calm conditions and in any case, too much sand will result in balls plugging.
Through the worst of the winter, bunkers are often affected by the water table causing them to either flood or be packed hard as water is drawn up from as much as 500mm below ground level due to capillary action.
The sand in the bunkers on the Jubilee and Strathtyrum Courses is a different, heavier grain which makes them less prone to wind blow. The reason for this dates back to the early 1990’s when the then Greens Committee decided to experiment with a different type of sand. What was eventually selected has evolved into what we have on these two courses today and also what is used at The Castle Course when it opened in 2008.
The question of which sand to use is often debated by the Greens Committee which carefully considers feedback from golfers. Over the years it has always been decided to continue with the traditional sand from the beach on the Old, New and Eden courses while using the heavier grained type on the other Links courses.
At certain times of the year, more money and man hours and are spent on bunkers than on preparing greens which is a bit bizarre given they are a hazard.
As Old Tom Morris used to say; “bunkers are not a place of pleasure, they’re for punishment and repentance.”
Words by Gordon Moir, Director of Greenkeeping