Thursday, March 22, 2012

The Tale of a Trap

Today, we began work on the sand bunker in front of the 8th green.  This area is currently "Ground Under Repair," meaning any golfer who 'accidentally' hits a ball into the trap may drop a ball no closer to the hole with no penalty.  If you would like to learn more about the history of this bunker, read on. . .

The bunkers at Sugar Creek were built in 2004 as part of the course improvements.  The trap in front of the 8th green is a vital element of the hole's design as a short but challenging par 4.  Without the bunker, golfers could "go for the green" with a driver without much risk -- if hit straight of course!  The bunker creates a nice "risk versus reward" situation for the long drive hitter and doesn't penalize the short drive hitter.  The placement of this bunker makes good sense for the hole.  It has, however, been difficult to maintain since it was built.

Here is the bunker at its best last year:

Unfortunately, the crew can only get the bunker in this condition with Mother Nature's help.  This picture was taken during a dry spell with no rain for 2 weeks.  The trap is playable under those circumstances, but any rain puts this in jeopardy.

This bunker has several problems:  
  1. The top lip is dug into the sub-surface of the green so it is always crumbing
  2. An old drainline from the green oozes water into the trap
  3. The trap has been "over-edged." Every time the top lip crumbled, it was edged back a foot or two. From digging around, I can tell the original shape of the trap was a full 10 feet smaller! This edging has only made the situation worse.
  4. During a heavy thunderstorm, water flows off the green straight into the trap.  This fills it with water and mixes soil with the sand stopping drainage.
 In short, this happened too many times:

Every time the bunker "washes out," the sand becomes mixed with soil and loses more and more of its ability to dry out. 

The Fix

To solve these problems, we are going to . . .
  1. Restore the bunker to its original shape
  2. Build a soil barrier between the green's sub-soil and the bunker
  3. Clean sand and soil from drain lines and add clean-out ports so we can keep the lines clean
  4. Shape the top lip to route as much water as possible away from the trap
  5. Sod the top lip with bluegrass to slow sheet flow during a storm
  6. Replace the contaminated sand and pea gravel with clean materials
With these modifications, the bunker should drain and function better than ever.  Stay posted for "Before and After" pictures!


A golfer just asked me not to fix this trap.  He said he enjoyed the "Combo hazard" -- you never knew if it was going to be water or sand!  Unfortunately we are too far along to stop now.

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