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Mark_Fine

  • Karma: +0/-0
Bunkers on most courses?
« on: September 11, 2023, 02:17:31 PM »
Bunkers donít look natural on most golf course landscapes but it is hard to find a course without them.  Most of us can only name a handful of designs.  Is the reason lack of better alternatives to create interest and challenge and/or is it a fear to step outside the traditional design box to not include them somewhere in the course layout? 
« Last Edit: September 11, 2023, 02:20:44 PM by Mark_Fine »

mike_malone

  • Karma: +0/-0
Re: Bunkers on most courses?
« Reply #1 on: September 11, 2023, 03:12:09 PM »
Mark,


  I will be interested in the historians response to this. It seems that the first inland courses mimicked the links courses by placing bunkers on the course. Then the US just followed suit.


  I played Royal Ashdown Forest, a bunkerless course, and didnít miss them. The color and penalty of heather easily substituted for bunkers.
AKA Mayday

Mark_Fine

  • Karma: +0/-0
Re: Bunkers on most courses?
« Reply #2 on: September 11, 2023, 03:23:51 PM »
Mike,
You are correct in that bunkers were added to inland courses to mimic the links.  Seems that tradition has continued to this day despite the fact bunkers sure donít look natural in most locations.  You and I both know Flynn never traveled to the other side of the pond but even ďthe nature fakerĒ used them on I believe all of his designs and most donít look natural.


And yes I have played Royal Ashdown Forest and the course doesnít need bunkers.  I didnít miss them.  The hollows and heather, etc was more than an adequate hazard. 

mike_malone

  • Karma: +0/-0
Re: Bunkers on most courses?
« Reply #3 on: September 11, 2023, 03:35:12 PM »
Saw a snippet of a Coyne podcast with a Valentine relative that suggested Flynn left few bunkers and allowed Mr. Valentine to finish the job. He ended up with more than 100. That would be an interesting study to compare the Flynn product to te Valentine one.



AKA Mayday

Carl Johnson

  • Karma: +0/-0
Re: Bunkers on most courses?
« Reply #4 on: September 11, 2023, 03:39:56 PM »
The way I look at it, non-links courses don't look like part of the natural landscape either.  Bunkers are a traditional part of course design, so I accept them without question. They are part of the game as it is. That is, I accept the idea of bunkers. Not necessarily the placement or style of every bunker.
« Last Edit: September 11, 2023, 03:44:20 PM by Carl Johnson »

Mark_Fine

  • Karma: +0/-0
Re: Bunkers on most courses?
« Reply #5 on: September 11, 2023, 03:52:21 PM »
Carl,
Yes we do accept bunkers in part for the reasons you suggest.  Forrest Richardson and I wrote a whole book on the subject  :)

I am just curious to hear otherís opinions. Also would like to hear what other formal or informal hazards people might favor over them.

Rob Marshall

  • Karma: +0/-0
Re: Bunkers on most courses?
« Reply #6 on: September 11, 2023, 09:04:07 PM »
Mark,
I grew up playing two courses that had no sand bunkers but they had grass bunkers around the greens. Benefit was I leaned to be a wizard on shots on the banks of these bunkers and this was before the 60 degree wedge became popular. You really had to be creative.


When I started playing from ďsand trapsĒ I was lostÖ.
If life gives you limes, make margaritas.Ē Jimmy Buffett

Sean_A

  • Karma: +0/-0
Re: Bunkers on most courses?
« Reply #7 on: September 11, 2023, 09:09:23 PM »
Bunkers donít look natural on most golf course landscapes but it is hard to find a course without them.  Most of us can only name a handful of designs.  Is the reason lack of better alternatives to create interest and challenge and/or is it a fear to step outside the traditional design box to not include them somewhere in the course layout? 

Is there an over riding reason why bunkers must look natural?

Ciao
New plays planned for 2023: Clyne

Tom_Doak

  • Karma: +1/-1
Re: Bunkers on most courses?
« Reply #8 on: September 11, 2023, 10:26:37 PM »
Well, Mark, you could build a new golf course without any bunkers and challenge the status quo.


But, if not, then why bring it up?

Carl Johnson

  • Karma: +0/-0
Re: Bunkers on most courses?
« Reply #9 on: September 11, 2023, 10:41:16 PM »
Carl,
Yes we do accept bunkers in part for the reasons you suggest.  Forrest Richardson and I wrote a whole book on the subject  :)

I am just curious to hear otherís opinions. Also would like to hear what other formal or informal hazards people might favor over them.



Mark, Thanks, I found your book on Amazon.  Used copies start at $64.95.  I guess you and Forrest would not share any of that.

Mark_Fine

  • Karma: +0/-0
Re: Bunkers on most courses?
« Reply #10 on: September 11, 2023, 10:54:34 PM »
Tom,
I had a renovation project in Hilton Head where we were planning to do that (no formal bunkers) but the ownership changed and it never happened.  It still could but you know how these things go. 

Actually part of the reason for this post was I have a new renovation (not restoration) project starting and the course has too many bunkers and they are not very attractive as well.  And Sean, no bunkers donít have to look natural but we often talk on this site about making everything look like it was there or found.  Anyway, what I am thinking is to remove many of the superfluous bunkers and utilize other types of formal and informal hazards where appropriate.  I want more variety in the design and at the same time want to make it more fun and thought provoking for a wide range of golfing abilities.  We will use short grass, mounding, hollows, rough, some trees as well as some water (streams and ponds and wetlands areas) that already exist on the course.  I was curious what types of hazards besides bunkers that people like to see on the courses they play?


Carl,
What did you want us to share?  Happy to try to help. 

Sean_A

  • Karma: +0/-0
Re: Bunkers on most courses?
« Reply #11 on: September 12, 2023, 03:58:24 AM »
Mark

I wholly agree that fewer bunkers and more varied features is a better way to keep golfers interested, challenged and entertained. But natural looking isn't why I am for this design shift.

Ciao
« Last Edit: September 12, 2023, 08:23:38 AM by Sean_A »
New plays planned for 2023: Clyne

Mark_Fine

  • Karma: +0/-0
Re: Bunkers on most courses?
« Reply #12 on: September 12, 2023, 06:53:02 AM »
Sean,
I love bunkers, I think theyíre great especially if used in moderation. But I was just pointing out that very few bunkers if any for example on a Parkland course look natural. I try to use buff colored sand so they blend in a little bit more instead of bright white sand but still, itís hard to make a bunker look natural.  Maybe no one cares which is why most all architects continue to use bunkers often probably because they feel they have to and/or there are not enough good alternatives to avoid them completely.  Golfers wouldnít think itís a good golf course if there werenít bunkers.



Jim_Coleman

  • Karma: +0/-0
Re: Bunkers on most courses?
« Reply #13 on: September 12, 2023, 07:10:55 AM »
   I think dramatic natural features (water, elevation, things that grow - trees, gorse, heather etc.) are what make a golf course aesthetically pleasing. Bunkers are next. For many (maybe most) cites, bunkers are all the architect has.

Carl Johnson

  • Karma: +0/-0
Re: Bunkers on most courses?
« Reply #14 on: September 12, 2023, 08:58:30 AM »

Carl,
What did you want us to share?  Happy to try to help.


I was trying to be a little cute.  Not clear, I guess. I meant that if I bought your book used for $64.95 on Amazon that you and Forrest would not profit from any of my $64.95, that is, no part of the $64.95 would be shared with you (unless you were the Amazon seller).

Thomas Dai

  • Karma: +0/-0
Re: Bunkers on most courses?
« Reply #15 on: September 12, 2023, 08:59:59 AM »
Hollows of short grass are cool features plus they're easier and less costly to construct and maintain than sand bunkers. And easier for the lessor skilled player to play recovery shots from.
Unfortunately over time they tend to become filled with divots. But then again, so what, playing from a divot is a skill too.
Bright sandy bunkers contrasted against lush green grass and blue water do look nice in photos and on TV though, which seems important to some.
atb

Sean_A

  • Karma: +0/-0
Re: Bunkers on most courses?
« Reply #16 on: September 12, 2023, 03:51:58 PM »
Sean,
I love bunkers, I think theyíre great especially if used in moderation. But I was just pointing out that very few bunkers if any for example on a Parkland course look natural. I try to use buff colored sand so they blend in a little bit more instead of bright white sand but still, itís hard to make a bunker look natural.  Maybe no one cares which is why most all architects continue to use bunkers often probably because they feel they have to and/or there are not enough good alternatives to avoid them completely.  Golfers wouldnít think itís a good golf course if there werenít bunkers.

Mark

Thats fine. However, I still don't understand the connection between non-natural bunkers on parkland courses and their use.

I too like bunkers, natural and non-natural, rugged and neat, large and small, crazy shapes and plain shapes. Regardless of their origin etc, I much prefer bunkers in balance with other features and with a much higher focus on placement. Almost always I find courses over bunkered and lacking other features such as mounds, earthworks and hollows. At the moment I am highly interested in the work Brian Schneider is doing.

Ciao
New plays planned for 2023: Clyne

Mark_Fine

  • Karma: +0/-0
Re: Bunkers on most courses?
« Reply #17 on: September 12, 2023, 04:47:11 PM »
Sean,
You may want to check out Llanerch GC. Curious what you think of the bunkering there?  There are only a few  ;)


Regarding non-natural bunkers and their use on Parkland courses; I was just making a statement mainly about their aesthetics. 


We associate bunkers with golf which is fine.  But there are times where I think bunkers are added when there could be better and more visually appealing options.  Then again, many think a cool looking bunker is appealing no matter where it is located. So be it.


I just got back from the renovation project I mentioned earlier and I believe we can probably eliminate at least 1/3 of the bunkers and modify the others and end up with a more appealing and strategically interesting golf course while at the same time dramatically reducing maintenance costs.  This is a public course so that will be compelling. 




Kalen Braley

  • Karma: +0/-0
Re: Bunkers on most courses?
« Reply #18 on: September 12, 2023, 06:24:16 PM »
Mark,

I agree where you're headed on this but challenging the status quo, especially a well-established one like this, is a tough uphill slog.  Look no further than Sheep Ranch which was heavily castigated for not including any sand bunkers.

I think its a good move for golf personally, but will likely have to be targeted at cost reduction vs aesthetics. Social media influencers have basically proven that bunker sluts are here to stay...

Mark_Fine

  • Karma: +0/-0
Re: Bunkers on most courses?
« Reply #19 on: September 12, 2023, 08:07:50 PM »
Carl,
Just happy you are getting the book. Hope you find it interesting.  We didnít write it to make money so no worries.


Kalen,
I am not advocating elimination of bunkers but in many cases there is merit for less of them.  A wind swept sand covered mound or sand filled hollow looks great on the links course, a blowout bunker at a place like Sand Hills looks awesome especially when you see dozens of others off the course in the surrounding landscape, but a pit of white sand in the middle of an acre or two of manicured green grass - you tell me?

Matt Schoolfield

  • Karma: +0/-0
Re: Bunkers on most courses?
« Reply #20 on: September 12, 2023, 08:12:05 PM »
I think bunkers are a very interesting from a game design perspective. They are extremely penal to the uninitiated, but also relatively easy to learn. Mostly I find a successful bunker shot to be a very satisfying, and visually pleasing thing, and much more so than an equivalent escape from woods or heather. I honestly think people just instinctually like sand.

I also speculate creating greenside bunkers was simply a useful adjacent source of soil to raise parkland greens above a water table.

The irony that bunkers are honestly easier than equivalent thick rough says something about whether we actually care about them as penal obstacles, or whether they exist as sort of functional reminder/symbol of a golf course.

I fully agree that we shouldn't worship the bunker, but I rarely see anything else that folks can get explosive shots through that won't also interrupt other surfaces. Woodchips would end up on green surfaces, but I suppose adding a "rake-style" brush to clean the green could accommodate. Most other types of loose impediment can damage clubs.
Building an encyclopedia of golf courses that anyone can edit: Golf Course Wiki
Some strong opinions on golf: Wigs on the Green
I really think golf culture should be more like beer culture than wine culture

Ian Andrew

  • Karma: +0/-0
Re: Bunkers on most courses?
« Reply #21 on: September 12, 2023, 10:00:52 PM »
I have a course in the Muskoka's that I work with that was built in the turn of the century with no bunkers. I didn't miss them at all and I recommended they never add any. It's the perfect cottage course. Mature trees, rolling terrain and exposed rock is more charming than any added bunker would ever be.
-

Thomas Dai

  • Karma: +0/-0
Re: Bunkers on most courses?
« Reply #22 on: September 13, 2023, 02:57:29 AM »
This piece by Ian in the 'In My Opinion' section of this website is well worth reading -
https://golfclubatlas.com/in-my-opinion/on-bunkers-by-ian-andrew/
atb

Mark_Fine

  • Karma: +0/-0
Re: Bunkers on most courses?
« Reply #23 on: September 13, 2023, 06:20:31 AM »
Ian,
I am sure you are correct about the course you referred to.  One day would love to see it.


Thomas,
Ianís piece about bunkers is spot on.  If you read our book on hazards, you will see Forrest and I have similar opinions.  We included hundreds of quotes from architects including those Ian mentioned. It is fascinating to see what past and  current architects thought and how they perceived and utilized bunkers, etc.






John Connolly

  • Karma: +0/-0
Re: Bunkers on most courses?
« Reply #24 on: September 13, 2023, 11:01:42 PM »
There are few parts of any golf hole that look natural - not tee, fairway nor green. Certainly a yellow flag jetting out of a manicured and mown patch of fescue in the middle of a sand hill is not natural. As minimalistic as any of the best are, we know where we are - our brains know we're on a playing field. We get pulled into the landscape as a theatrical experience. Sand-filled bunkers are one of many characters in the play and the plot is less without them. 
"And yet - and yet, this New Road will some day be the Old Road, too."

                                                      Neil Munroe (1863-1930)

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