How to…Renovate Bunkers

What should you consider if you want to give your bunkers a makeover? Internationally renowned architect Jonathan Gaunt reveals his top tips for clubs thinking of embarking on a redesign. Are your bunkers relevant? If you’ve got a bunker on a fairway, can you justify changing it? If you can, is it within the fairway or does it not come into play? Should you bring it into play? With greenside bunkers, you are looking at what kind of impact it has on pin positions on the green. With rear flanking bunkers, we have generally taken them out and created a lot of grassy run offs. These days, we are bringing bunkers more into the approaches of greens. "Get your architect involved. Commission a masterplan and get it costed accurately and then you can phase the work" With a lot of bunkers towards the rear of greens, greenkeepers have said to me –and I know I should believe them because they maintain the course – ‘this bunker is hardly ever used.’ There’s an argument towards removing these bunkers if it improves maintainability and doesn’t affect challenge or aesthetics negatively. In general terms, there are too many sand bunkers on courses. On projects we have worked on, we have taken about somewhere between 10 and 20 bunkers – on average – and then reduced the sand areas in a lot of bunkers. Avoid elliptical shapes The last 30 to 40 years, there has been mechanisation of bunker maintenance. If they (clubs) mechanise raking their bunkers, they don’t want any awkward shapes.That’s why they end up with oval-shaped bunkers. They are consistently easier to maintain but they are really dull and look really unappealing. Consider the size of your bunkers There are some courses where the bunkers are absolutely enormous. A lot of golf courses in the 80s and 90s built bunkers that were in excess of 150 to 200sq metres. In today’s economy, they are not very cost-effective. You can’t justify maintaining bunkers of that size. Even at Royal Lytham, in recent years they have filled in a significant amount of bunkers. It was partly to do with playability but also quite a lot to do with the cost of maintaining those bunkers. If Open venues are doing it, then other clubs should consider doing the same. Consider using bunker liners I say to any club that contacts us about a re-bunkering process that the biggest issue is whether you go for a liner or not. Some clubs can’t afford to put a liner in their bunkers. But when you start to do the maths and work out how much you spend raking sand back up he faces, replacing contaminated sand, and so on, you see the lining more or less justifies the costs. Make sure you commission a masterplan The important thing is getting the masterplan in place. There are some golf clubs where I have come in after a contractor has already started and they have done things the wrong...
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