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Ally Mcintosh

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GCA Mythbusters 5: Bunker Styles
« on: May 22, 2022, 07:36:14 AM »
“Natural edge bunkers are cheaper and easier to maintain”


Truth or Myth?


(I am going to preface responses to this thread to acknowledge that I know that most of these Mythbusters questions - particularly this one - can be answered with “it depends”. In some ways that is the point. But I’m also questioning views that are getting trotted out more and more often by people - usually outwith this very knowledgeable forum - who know a bit but not that much and are now shaping themselves as experts on what makes a great golf course).


P.S. I just learned “outwith” is only used in Scotland when I got one of those red squiggly lines put under it that made me scurry off to the dictionary. Who’d ever have thunk it!
« Last Edit: May 22, 2022, 09:09:54 AM by Ally Mcintosh »

Cal Carlisle

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Re: GCA Mythbusters 5: Bunker Styles
« Reply #1 on: May 22, 2022, 10:46:36 AM »
The steeper the bunker bank, the move ”fun” it is to maintain. If bunker faces are both the same surface area and pitch, I’d rather maintain the natural edge.

Niall C

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Re: GCA Mythbusters 5: Bunker Styles
« Reply #2 on: May 22, 2022, 10:58:33 AM »
P.S. I just learned “outwith” is only used in Scotland when I got one of those red squiggly lines put under it that made me scurry off to the dictionary. Who’d ever have thunk it!


Yes, every time I've written a report in the last twenty years I've been reminded of the difference between the Queen's English, American-speak and Scottish.


Niall

Niall C

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Re: GCA Mythbusters 5: Bunker Styles
« Reply #3 on: May 22, 2022, 11:00:25 AM »
Ally


I thought we'd already gone full circle on this in that it was "accepted" that natural edged bunkers tended to take more care and attebtion or have been getting that wrong ?


Niall

Adam Lawrence

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Re: GCA Mythbusters 5: Bunker Styles
« Reply #4 on: May 22, 2022, 01:09:42 PM »
I don’t think I’ve ever heard anyone claim ragged edged bunkers are cheaper to maintain
Adam Lawrence

Editor, Golf Course Architecture
www.golfcoursearchitecture.net

Principal, Oxford Golf Consulting
www.oxfordgolfconsulting.com

Short words are best, and the old words, when short, are the best of all.

Ally Mcintosh

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Re: GCA Mythbusters 5: Bunker Styles
« Reply #5 on: May 22, 2022, 01:35:22 PM »
Niall, Adam,


They should be claiming it. Because in my experience, if they are put in the “right place” and are “truly” natural and left to evolve, then they can take next to no maintenance, certainly in a cool season fescue environment.


The problem comes when they are over-designed with edges that need tended to regularly.

Thomas Dai

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Re: GCA Mythbusters 5: Bunker Styles
« Reply #6 on: May 22, 2022, 03:39:44 PM »
It’ll be interesting to see how many of the ‘natural’ bunkers and sandy areas that have been opened-up on links and heathland courses recently either expand themselves or become grown-over over the course of the next few years unless the hand of man (and machine) regularly intervenes. And also the extent the ‘crinkle-cut’ edging on links, heathland and parkland etc bunkers remains or becomes more straight edged. My suspicion is that unless manpower etc levels increase then nature and the easiest effort option, ie ignore or semi-ignore them, are most likely to prevail.
Overgrown sandy areas, bunkers etc that have recently been opened-up once again closed-up over time for a reason.
Atb

PPallotta

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Re: GCA Mythbusters 5: Bunker Styles
« Reply #7 on: May 22, 2022, 04:01:40 PM »
...if they are put in the “right place” and are “truly” natural and left to evolve, then they can take next to no maintenance, certainly in a cool season fescue environment.
As a casual observer, the "left to evolve" part looks to be the challenge. Who in the golf industry is predisposed, professionally speaking, to leave well enough alone, letting time and nature do their work and standing by as a natural bunker evolves naturally? The owner/operator? The bunker liner salespeople? The superintendent? Other architects looking for opportunities to refine, restore, renovate or re-design? Golfers themselves?

Cal Carlisle

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Re: GCA Mythbusters 5: Bunker Styles
« Reply #8 on: May 22, 2022, 04:03:08 PM »
I honestly do not know what the weekly man hour input is for natural edge bunkers. It was my experience working at two different US Top 100 courses with cool season grass and conventional bunkers, at least once, many times twice a week we had 2-3 guys fly mowing, one guy blowing out the clippings out of the bunkers from the flow mowers. Then, of course, you had 2-3 guys handmowing triangles between the fairway and the bunker so rough mowers could smoothly mow around the bunkers without making sharp turns.Bunker edges got cleaned up probably once a month. In the heat of the summer most south facing bunker faces got handwatered because the sprinklers would wash out the bunker faces.

I don't know how many man hours this added up to weekly, but it was a lot. I never worked at place with natural edge bunkers so I'd really be interested to hear exactly how they more labor intensive than what I described above.
« Last Edit: May 22, 2022, 04:06:04 PM by Cal Carlisle »

Tom_Doak

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Re: GCA Mythbusters 5: Bunker Styles
« Reply #9 on: May 22, 2022, 08:00:08 PM »
...if they are put in the “right place” and are “truly” natural and left to evolve, then they can take next to no maintenance, certainly in a cool season fescue environment.
As a casual observer, the "left to evolve" part looks to be the challenge. Who in the golf industry is predisposed, professionally speaking, to leave well enough alone, letting time and nature do their work and standing by as a natural bunker evolves naturally? The owner/operator? The bunker liner salespeople? The superintendent? Other architects looking for opportunities to refine, restore, renovate or re-design? Golfers themselves?


The whole point of that style is TO BE COMFORTABLE to let the edges evolve and change over time, because in windy environments like Tasmania and the Oregon coast, any style is going to change, and the ragged edges leave less pressure on the maintenance crew to maintain a certain look.  And I'm totally comfortable with letting them evolve, even if maybe the shapers that built them get attached to a certain detail and lament when it's gone.


Cal's point is also worth noting, though:  at the end of the day, the higher number of steep and difficult features you build out there, the more the maintenance is going to cost, regardless of what style of bunker you are maintaining.  Steep banks are more difficult to maintain in grass faces, in sandy faces, with clean edges, with ragged edges, etc.
« Last Edit: May 22, 2022, 08:01:44 PM by Tom_Doak »

Alan FitzGerald MG

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Re: GCA Mythbusters 5: Bunker Styles
« Reply #10 on: May 23, 2022, 08:39:29 AM »
I'll throw this one out there. There are three types of bunkers - Manicured, Frilly edged, completely "natural".

I class manicured as say Augusta; Natural as like Pine Valley or RCD where the line between maintained turf and completely natural seamlessly blend into each other (and very hard to replicate without it being left to evolve); And lastly Frilly, which is de rigueur right now and is sort of a half way design, with a long fescue edge/faces and the rest is mowed.


I'll say the natural edges are overall more maintenance, which comes from from maintaining courses with both.

The weekly maintenance on the clean designs are more, although newer machinery like the Ventrac has greatly reduced the labor requirements. A quick example was years ago we needed appox 6x12 hours to Flymo and edge bunkers, followed by 2 x12 to clean them out afterwards. That was for one mowing. Now with the Ventrac, its 1x6hrs with the machine, 2x3 for the flymoing and edging and 1x4 to clean them out for the same area. So 16 vs 96 man hours...

Having frilly edges would remove some of the hand work but (and this depends on the design) they would probably still need some weedeating tiding up at least once a month, so there are savings on regular maintenance over the manicured types.

The true natural bunkers may need none of that on a regular basis. However, the issue comes back to letting them evolve. As they mature, the flatter edges grow in, the big face edges collapse and sometimes need shoring up or repair, the plants in the waste areas get bigger etc. All of these things needs cleaning up at least once a year so they don't intrude on play. As PPallotta mentioned there is a fine line between being left alone and left to evolve but left to evolve does need a lot of maintenance to keep the areas playable. Again it depends somewhat on the design and it is offseason work but cleaning up these areas take a considerable amount of manpower so at the end of the year when the amount of hours between both are compared, the natural bunkers will require more hours to be spent on them.
Golf construction & maintenance are like creating a masterpiece; Da Vinci didn't paint the Mona Lisa's eyes first..... You start with the backdrop, layer on the detail and fine tune the finished product into a masterpiece

Cal Carlisle

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Re: GCA Mythbusters 5: Bunker Styles
« Reply #11 on: May 23, 2022, 09:35:50 AM »
For thoughtful post, Alan.

Mark_Fine

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Re: GCA Mythbusters 5: Bunker Styles
« Reply #12 on: May 23, 2022, 07:09:25 PM »
Mike Strantz once told me to make natural looking bunkers look natural is very expensive and time consuming. 

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