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I often get asked “What do you guys do when the weather’s bad?” It’s pouring out right now so we are wrapping up the winter to-do list. We are busy painting portions of the shop, sealing accessories, assembling bunker rakes, servicing equipment, and Luke and Evan are catching up on some admin work. These rainy days are very valuable to the operation.

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The crew is working through some less than ideal conditions today to begin to wrap up winter projects. Most of the new fairway expansion on 5 was sodded today along with the drainage work on 5 and 6.

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During these couple of snow covered days, the staff refinished the bridge on 14. All of the wood planks were replaced and new matting will be installed by the weekend. The metal portions of the bridge will be repainted when temperatures allow.

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The early week snow stayed south of us and we took advantage of a clear golf course. The crew stayed busy installing drainage in #5 fairway. The project will wrap up early next week.

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Work is starting today on the fairway expansion on the fifth hole. Shane is pumped about it.

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Just a sampling of what comes out of the ground every time we deep-tine fairways (not the phone, it’s just there for scale 🙂). On a positive note, we are pulling out far less now than when first added this process into our regular agronomic programs.

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Friday sod party! Projects on 4, 8, and 10 were sodded today. We finished installing irrigation on the changes to 16 approach and are currently doing the final shaping. This approach will be sodded early next week.

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Winter is coming. Select landing areas, tees, and sections of greens have been covered for the off-season.

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Work is underway to eliminate the collection area on the 16th approach. The sod being harvested is being used on the 8th fairway where the bunker was removed last week.

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Bunker Consistency

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Recently, I received an email from a member asking me about the the consistency, or lack thereof, in our bunkers. I received more questions/comments about the bunkers than any other area on the golf course and wanted to share my response with the entire membership:

"Thank you for the email. I always appreciate feedback and am happy to have a discussion about the golf course.

For reference, the bunker renovation was performed in 2010. The sand that was chosen during the renovation is called Valley Forge Buff. Different bunker sands have different properties and I know that the Green Committee specifically chose this sand because of its ability to lock together, which prevents washouts and provides a firm surface from which to play.

The American Society of Golf Course Architects says that bunker sand has a life span of 5-7 years. This is because over time, the sand becomes contaminated with organic matter and other soil particles, which affects how the sand plays. For an example of this think about beach sand v. clay soil. When a wave washes up on a beach, the water dissipates and the sand is firm again within seconds. That same amount of water will sit on and in a clay soil for hours. These cases illustrate the extreme ends of the spectrum but do help to explain the water holding capacity of different types of soils.

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Back to our bunkers. I believe that this contamination is what you are feeling when you are playing, rather than a lack of sand. (Above) are three different photos-all are from the front right bunker on #7, all random spots within four paces of each other. As you can see, there is ample sand in the bottom of the bunker but the difference in each is the amount contamination that can be seen at the top. What you are seeing is a result 12 years of dust blowing into the bunkers as well, clay migrating to the surface, and organic matter buildup from grass clippings and tree debris decaying. The darker brown areas will hold more moisture and thus play firmer than the areas with a solid column of pure white sand. When the sand that is in the bunker already has a tendency to be firm, this can make it feel like solid clay.

So I guess the next question is, can we just flip the sand over or mix it in? We regularly use a machine rake to break this layer up and mix these sands together but there is a limit to how affective it is. As I am sure you know, most of our bunkers are lined with fabric. I have thought about running a tiller through the bunkers in the past but I ultimately believe that the risk of disturbing that liner is not worth the tremendous amount of labor or the temporary affect that we would get out of it.

When broken down by area on the golf course, you might find it interesting to know that we spend the second most man-hours on bunker preparation than any other surface on the golf course. For reference, the top four since March 1st are: 1900 hours on greens, 1400 hours on bunkers, 1100 hours on rough, and 850 hours on fairways. Nearly every day, we have crew members checking depths, scouring surfaces, and moving sand around.

Ultimately, we do need to look at replacing the sand on the golf course and you should know that it is on both the Green Committee and the Board’s radar. If we do, I have recommended that we do install an aggregate liner such as Better Billy or Capillary Concrete. Both have been in the field at other properties since the mid-2000’s and have been shown to perform very well and extend the life of bunker sand."

Hopefully this sheds some light on the science of why our bunkers perform the way they do.