We estimate that we will have used 720m2 of turf to complete the build.

Rebuilding Hell Bunker

One of the major winter maintenance projects the Old Course greenkeeing team have undertaken over winter is rebuilding bunkers. Ahead of hosting the 144th Open Championship in July we will be working throughout the winter months to rebuild around 50 bunkers including the infamous Hell Bunker.

Hell Bunker is one of the four largest bunkers on the course. We work on a rotation basis and tend to rebuild one of the ‘big four’ each year. A team of five greenkeepers started work ‘in Hell’ in mid-November. A JCB digger was used to dig out old face, remove the old sand and pull back turf on the top of the bunker.

Rebuilding such a vast bunker differs from the others on the course. In building up the bunker face we have to use turf approximately 30cm x 50cm in size to increase stability. The bunker is built up to about three quarters of its intended height and is then left for couple of weeks to bed in before the reconstruction is completed.  We estimate that we will have used 720m2 of turf to complete the build.


A spirit level was used during construction to make sure we kept the turf sods level. This was a hugely important consideration throughout the build.


The bunker face was built to a 65 degree angle. This is the standard angle for rough and fairway bunkers.


In years gone by we only had one permanent TV camera duct installed into a bunker face on the Old Course (Road Hole bunker), but this winter we’ve added several more including inside Hell bunker. This will give golf fans all over the world a unique perspective should anyone find themselves in Hell during The Open.


As well as the actual rebuild, the work also aimed to make several improvements to the bunker. The base structure contained a lot of clay particles which lead to a poor water precipitation rate. After sustained rainfall the bunker had a tendency to flood and take a long time to dry out, especially during winter when water table is higher.


We removed the old base and mixed a new one containing a higher content of sand particles to aid drainage. Once the bunker base was shaped we filled it back up with sand. The bunker will now be left for a period to bed in and should be back in play towards the end of March.

Have any of you found yourself ‘in Hell’ playing the Old Course?

Words by Martin Turna, Greenkeeper – the Old Course

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