Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Golf Sand Shots - Don't Be Afraid of Bunkers Cont'd - Bunker Design Types

In the early days of golf the bunkers were formed naturally by nature and animals such as rabbits and sheep.  Now the bunkers are created by the course designers to give beauty, strategy, and hazards to stimulate the golfers ability to challenge the course.  Apart from being carefully placed to encourage the well-struck shot or to unnerve the fainthearted, they should also clearly indicate the best way to play a particular hole and highlight certain danger areas.

Some of the modern courses today, unfortunately, sport some large, very flat fairway bunkers which are so shallow you could take a driver to play out of them.  They are formed this way to keep costs down, but they are not what bunkers are all about.  Another trend, is putting bunkers too close to the surface of the putting green.  As far as green keepers are concerned, this is a bad move, as sand is always splashed onto the putting surface causing damage and disease to the grass.  If the sand contains  high lime content or made up of course particles, it will be incompatible with the top dressing material.  It will cover up the turf, which could lead to mold and possible weaken the turf itself over time.

By putting sand near the putting surface it provides a unfair hazard for the golfer.  On well designed courses you should be able to use your putter from the immediate surroundings of the green.

There are three different types of bunkers from fairway to green that positively aid the golfer in playing the hole, namely direction, carry and saving bunkers.  Two other types, called definition and face bunkers, can be both a help or a difficult hazard, while waste, collection and pot bunkers come under the dangerous hazard classification and should be avoided at all cost.

The  bunker designs that are usually used to help by indicating the best route or direction for your drive are directional bunkers.  Placed well down the fairway on par fours or fives way out of reach of the handicap player even if he this his Sunday best shot.  By aiming directly at them, this will keep you from any of the trouble on either side of the fairway.  The purpose of these bunkers is to allow you to open up a dog-leg for you and certainly give the best line of approach to the green. 

Another type bunker you find off the tee box is the carry bunker.  They are called this for they threaten the landing area of your drive so that you musty carry them, can help to define the area more clearly, although they often inhibit a free swing by their mere presence.  Don't be to concerned though,  They are usually placed well short of your optimum landing area, but if you do catch your ball a little thin and find yourself in he sad, the changes are you will be in a good lie as these bunkers are usually fairly large and flat.

Another helping type bunker is the saving bunker.  These are generally placed around the green.  They are placed where there is generally real trouble spots, as the bunkers are carefully positioned to stop the ball from bouncing or rolling down into them.  A steep slope leading to an out of-bounds to the right of the green will sometimes be marked by a saving bunker above it, which will grab an over-hit approach shot or slice. 

You often find them behind or in front of the green where there is water or trees.  As they almost invariably give you an uphill lie, recover onto the green is rarely difficult; the option is certainly better than the trouble they bar.  This allows you to have confidence to go after the pin and be safe from the trouble.

Since saving bunkers help define trouble areas, definition bunkers are positioned to outline the target area for your drive off the tee, or to help you judge your line or distance to the flag.  These are the most common bunkers on the course, the fairway version will pose more difficult problems, due to steepness of front slope or lie, on the shorter par fours.

Green side hazards, should give some indication of how much green there is between hole and the bunker, when viewed in relation to the flag, which helps in club selection.  They can bracket the green, are deep and difficult to escape from, so you should never flirt with them.

Now Face Bunkers, which are found in front of the green more often than not, help to decide the area of green you should play for.  They generally help mask the distance to the flag from the edges of the putting surface.    They are generally quite steep, with sharp down slopes in front, you should play well clear of them.

The menacing hazard includes waste bunkers.  The word waste before the term bunker should give you a great indication that this will be a difficult area to hit from.  They are long, flat areas of sand surrounded by local shrub rather than fairway grass, they often feature clumps or islands of grass inside them to create an even more difficult problem for the golfer.  Sometimes you get lucky with your lie and pick your ball cleanly off the sand or if you're close to the green, play a standard splash shot.

Collection bunkers are another dangerous type.  They are usually found lining the fairways of older courses, often on the inside corner of a dog-leg.  Designed to catch all but the best struck tee shot, as most of the surrounding fairway slopes into them.  They are usually deep and can be small or large.  In most cases they have a steep face of 1:1 or steeper.

This years Open, won by Phil Michelson, at Muirfield was an example of a lot of Pot Bunkers.  These are typical of most courses in Scotland.  These bunkers are small, round and deep with step faces everywhere that demand a high recover shot.  Pot bunkers are the most menacing form of the hazard and provide a real challenge for you to keep calm in their vicinity and just play steadily toward the flag. 

As you can see there a number of hazards some helpful some not.  When you understand which is which then you should be able to help with the strategy of your game and lower your score.

Next blog we will talk about the Strategy of Bunker play.

Until then, when you are in a bunker and cannot see the flag you know you are in trouble.....

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