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Fewer Bunkers?

A pair of golf course architects discuss the potential benefits of fewer bunkers on courses with stretched budgets.

Fewer bunkers could be a route to helping courses on stretched budgets enhance playability, according to Todd Quitno of Lohmann Golf Designs. Quitno cited an Illinois course built in the mid-2000s with “big, flash bunkers” and fabric liners as an example of where less sand surface could provide more maintenance punch. “We are looking at taking some bunkers out at that golf course to try to get to a manageable amount,” he says. “That’s a big focus – getting you down to the footprint that if you do renovate them, you can afford to do that.” Downsizing can also help reduce storm-related expenses. The average bunker cleanup effort following a storm averages between $1,000 and $1,500, and courses in a market such as Chicago can receive as many as 10 significant rain events each summer, Quitno says. The totals don’t include lost revenue in the event of a course closure because of unplayable conditions. Ian Andrew of Ian Andrew Golf Design advocates rethinking bunker counts. Short turf promoting creative shotmaking around greens could be an alternative for courses looking to reduce maintenance costs, according to Andrew. “If they are losing their strategic value and they are one of the most expensive things that we build and one of the few items that we have to consistently rebuild, does this not bring us to the point as architects of saying, ‘Maybe bunkers shouldn’t be the answer as much as they already area?’” he says. “I can think back to the go-go era of the ‘80s and ‘90s where 100-plus is pretty normal. I would say this era has backed off to 60 to 70 bunkers. But it really does bring up the idea that maybe it’s time we look back to the models like original Augusta that 29, 30 bunkers, whatever it was. Maybe short grass should be the defense around greens because it’s more effective than a bunker has become, but it doesn’t affect the maintenance budget the same way.” - Guy Cipriano is GCI’s associate editor.

2/27/2017 12:00:00 AM

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