Feature Design


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Sand bunkers have evolved over the history of the game from small deep depressions to a large variety of shapes, sizes, depths and sand colours. Construction and maintenance budgets, weather conditions, soils, desired challenge, appearance and the architect’s vision all contribute to the design. Bunkers will generally exhibit balance and scale on each hole. The sand can be used to balance not only other bunkers, but also trees, water, rock, long grasses and mounds.

Shapes can vary from simple circles to wildly convoluted edges that twist and turn to form long, narrow fingers of grass and deep bays of sand. Simple shapes are easier to maintain and usually are more appropriate in gently rolling landscapes. More complicated shapes will be better suited to rugged sites and perhaps flat sites that may require the introduction of a specific type of character. Construction and maintenance costs will usually increase when more detail is added to the shape.

Bunker sizes are quite often dependent on the scale of the golf course. A course with large greens, wide fairways, tall trees and expansive water features may appear more balanced with large bunkers. Smaller areas of sand can be more appropriate where the other features are not as large and budgets for construction and maintenance are limited.

Slopes within and without the cavity of the bunker play a large part in the challenge, aesthetics and maintenance of the feature. Steeper faces of either sand or grass create more difficulties in escaping the bunkers, so they should be located in areas where a greater penalty is required. The visual impact of steep faces is usually more dramatic. However, severe slopes on either sand or grass will be more expensive to maintain.

Drainage is built into the design of bunkers. Water from the surrounding area is prevented from entering the cavity to minimize erosion and flooding. Drainpipe is placed strategically under the sand to collect excess rain or irrigation water before washouts occur. Sand is chosen not only for its colour and playing qualities, but also for its ability to drain properly.

Several aesthetic alternatives can be incorporated into the surrounds of the bunker. Rock and wood are used when a striking visual impact is desired, most commonly practised on resort courses. Revetting, (sod facing), is common on seaside links but can be utilized to good effect where the character of these courses is desired. Long grasses on the back side of bunkers create a wild appearance and may decrease maintenance costs.