True "Pot" Bunkers

Curious if others of you that like Golf Course Architecture have noticed the propensity for designers on U.S. soil NOT to build true pot bunkers. Seems this feature as a part of many classic links courses has been out of fashion for quite awhile on this continent. Is it due to the popularity of stroke play? What say ye WRX'ers?

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  • MaxBuckMaxBuck Members Posts: 340 ✭✭

    I think pot bunkers are one of the best possible arguments for retaining Equitable Stroke Control.

  • Argonne69Argonne69 Members Posts: 20,327 ✭✭

    Don't pot bunkers require a lot of maintenance? I was at St Andrews two weeks ago, and I thought I heard the caddie say that they redo the sod faces every two years. That would be quite expensive for most courses.

  • gioguy21gioguy21 NJMembers Posts: 7,357 ✭✭

    @Matt J said:
    Curious if others of you that like Golf Course Architecture have noticed the propensity for designers on U.S. soil NOT to build true pot bunkers. Seems this feature as a part of many classic links courses has been out of fashion for quite awhile on this continent. Is it due to the popularity of stroke play? What say ye WRX'ers?

    for courses here in the us - we don't really have links golf here like over there; and the reasoning behind them was to 'catch' your ball as it's bounding down the fairways or towards greens on an errant shot. on parkland style courses, it makes more sense to have 'flatter' bunkers by comparison b/c the course is made harder than links style in that you have to fly it into shot areas. errant shots that find bunkers on parkland style courses can bury fried-egg style and give their own problems.

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  • Matt JMatt J Members Posts: 8,716 ✭✭

    Agreed that there are "few" true links courses in the USA, but there are some, and few, if any real pot bunkers.

    My thought after seeing some of the classic Scots links was that medal play is largely the reason. I really like the punitive nature of a "real" pot bunker. Muirfield, Carnoustie, and The Old Course seem to encourage you to put your tee ball into some tough spots, at best very bad angles in, just to avoid a pot bunker. It's nearly the original links version of OB. The key to managing them seems to be distance control. A player that understands the nuances of the fairway, is playing the wind, and has good distance control can flirt with the pots and find "A" positions that a player playing away from them cannot access. Allows for some aggressive lines and potential birdies based on the more difficult shot value.

    Although clearly no expert myself, I'm curious if the observation holds with many of you? Seems that the modern links architects, Kidd, Doak, Coore, et al. do not utilize this "dinosaur" of early course design whether they are building here or Scotland i.e. Castle and Renaissance - although I did not play either of those so could not verify.

  • raynorfan1raynorfan1 Members Posts: 3,536 ✭✭

    As noted above, it has everything to do with Links golf vs. other styles. We have something like four links golf courses in all of the United States. Pot bunkers on a non-links setting are an affectation (Donald Trump is particularly fond of putting revetted bunkers on otherwise parkland style courses).

    They work on links courses because a relatively small bunker may have a very large catchment area in the fairway. Where you are going to run the ball on the fairway a long way, the bunkers can serve as legitimate defense of angles. In an American environment, they're borderline useless. Even on a "firm and fast" course in the US, you get nothing like the same run-out in the fairway. As a result, being in a small, deep bunker would be much more related to bad luck than skill or purposeful avoidance.

    In terms of new courses, Renaissance employs pot bunkers - though not as punitively as Muirfield next door. I don't believe Coore / Crenshaw has ever done a links course,

  • OutBackHackOutBackHack Members Posts: 910 ✭✭

    @Argonne69 said:
    Don't pot bunkers require a lot of maintenance? I was at St Andrews two weeks ago, and I thought I heard the caddie say that they redo the sod faces every two years. That would be quite expensive for most courses.

    You don't need a revetted face on a bunker for it to be a pot bunker. Should be less maintenance really, smaller, less sand etc.

  • raynorfan1raynorfan1 Members Posts: 3,536 ✭✭

    @OutBackHack said:

    @Argonne69 said:
    Don't pot bunkers require a lot of maintenance? I was at St Andrews two weeks ago, and I thought I heard the caddie say that they redo the sod faces every two years. That would be quite expensive for most courses.

    You don't need a revetted face on a bunker for it to be a pot bunker. Should be less maintenance really, smaller, less sand etc.

    I also find it hard to believe that the greenskeepers of Scotland would elect a high-cost method of construction if there were a cheaper alternative. My guess is that for their climate/growing conditions...revetting the faces is the cheapest of options...

  • duffer987duffer987 Don't feed the Choo. Canadian in CaliforniaMembers Posts: 9,013 ✭✭

    There are no sheep on North American parkland courses to get the ball rolling by burrowing in.
    "Fairness". How much do people whinge about being in a divot in the fairway? Pot bunkers are the penalty area version of that. I didn't know that was there, that's just stupid, so on and so forth. Leading to loads of 20-25 yars wide bunkers with visible faces.
    Aesthetics/"naturalness". Digging a hole in a largely flat parkland course just doesn't work: it's out of place. Pot bunkers don't need to be rivetfaced (the pic above isn't even a pot bunker) they don't need to be more than knee deep, but they still don't naturally fit with a typical parkland track.
    Terrain. Previous one is more or less the same, they typically don't have a landform to leverage for easy pot bunker placement.

    On links/faux links think all the designers make use of pot bunkers to some extent. Chambers #18, Bandon #8, #12 & #16, Old Mac #6, C&C boomerang horseshoe green templates, come to mind immediately. I'm sure Rawls Course, Renaissance, Gamble, etc... all have them, just cannot think of one immediately.

  • spud3spud3 Portland, ORMembers Posts: 1,603 ✭✭
    edited May 7, 2019 5:20pm #10

    @Matt J said:
    Curious if others of you that like Golf Course Architecture have noticed the propensity for designers on U.S. soil NOT to build true pot bunkers. Seems this feature as a part of many classic links courses has been out of fashion for quite awhile on this continent. Is it due to the popularity of stroke play? What say ye WRX'ers?

    Probably because it's hard to make a pot bunker with a Cat D8

    "take that, you miserable little white swine!"
  • DancinDancin Members Posts: 250 ✭✭
    edited May 7, 2019 6:13pm #11

    @Argonne69 said:
    Don't pot bunkers require a lot of maintenance? I was at St Andrews two weeks ago, and I thought I heard the caddie say that they redo the sod faces every two years. That would be quite expensive for most courses.

    Most courses with that style of bunker face in the US use imitation materials that require little maintenance. TPC Colorado has a few that use Durabunker materials. Highland Meadows in Windsor, CO also has a couple bunkers with the same durabunker imitation sod faces.

  • Matt JMatt J Members Posts: 8,716 ✭✭

    Coore / Crenshaw are in the process of building a links with no bunkers. Ironic the mention of 18 at Chambers since the USGA insisted on it and then RTJ Jr. wanted to fill it back in after the Open.

    Maybe I should have distilled the question a little more...

    perhaps we only have 4 true links courses, the 3 at Bandon (soon to be 4) and Chambers Bay, so in all fairness we only have Kidd, Doak, RTJ Jr., and could be C and C but they aren't building any bunkers.

    So, do you guys think that the relative absence of "true" 1 shot penalty pot bunkers is in part due to the desire to hold competitions and those competitions being multiple day stroke play have an effect on the modern designer laying this popular ancient form of hazard by the wayside?

    I mean "Muirfield, The Old Course, Carnoustie" type bunkers. Throw it out and take your lick and move on bunkers.

    Seems as sand play has improved the modern design teams like a bunker that is a 1 or more stroke penalty for a poor or too ambitious player, meanwhile more advanced players can generally make it 1/2 shot to no penalty with the right pass at the ball.

    Xander Schauffele wins at Carnoustie if he stays out of those bunkers in my opinion to better frame the argument.

    BTW, my favorite response so far goes to Spud. Perhaps we need a curved blade for a backhoe so no one actually has to man the shovel :)

  • raynorfan1raynorfan1 Members Posts: 3,536 ✭✭

    @Matt J said:
    Coore / Crenshaw are in the process of building a links with no bunkers. Ironic the mention of 18 at Chambers since the USGA insisted on it and then RTJ Jr. wanted to fill it back in after the Open.

    Maybe I should have distilled the question a little more...

    perhaps we only have 4 true links courses, the 3 at Bandon (soon to be 4) and Chambers Bay, so in all fairness we only have Kidd, Doak, RTJ Jr., and could be C and C but they aren't building any bunkers.

    So, do you guys think that the relative absence of "true" 1 shot penalty pot bunkers is in part due to the desire to hold competitions and those competitions being multiple day stroke play have an effect on the modern designer laying this popular ancient form of hazard by the wayside?

    I mean "Muirfield, The Old Course, Carnoustie" type bunkers. Throw it out and take your lick and move on bunkers.

    Seems as sand play has improved the modern design teams like a bunker that is a 1 or more stroke penalty for a poor or too ambitious player, meanwhile more advanced players can generally make it 1/2 shot to no penalty with the right pass at the ball.

    Xander Schauffele wins at Carnoustie if he stays out of those bunkers in my opinion to better frame the argument.

    BTW, my favorite response so far goes to Spud. Perhaps we need a curved blade for a backhoe so no one actually has to man the shovel :)

    IMHO there is little appetite to build "championship" caliber Links in the United States. The current design fad is sort of the opposite of the old RTJ "hard par easy bogey" to largely eliminate penal elements from courses but use intricate greens complexes to make low scores hard to achieve. Strategic decisions on modern courses are sort of all-upside, no downside options. Pot bunkers (and water hazards) are the antithesis of this design philosophy.

    I hope that with the new rules WRT dropping outside a bunker, we can safely return to some of these classic design elements.

  • jonnymc44jonnymc44 Manchester UKMembers Posts: 77 ✭✭

    A lot of work goes into building and rebuilding the revets, although that's not backed up by any evidence! Royal Dornoch posted a photo last February of one of their bunkers being rebuilt and revetted. Looks pretty intense to me but I'm a layman, a greenkeeper might agree or say otherwise.
    Picture credit: Royal Dornoch Instagram

  • burnsniperburnsniper Members Posts: 534 ✭✭

    Guess it depends on how you define “true pot bunker” as I have played many US courses that effectively have a pot bunker. Three that jump mind without really even thinking about it are on Kiawah Ocean course, Ballyhack, and one of my home courses (C&C design). These courses have “fairway bunkers” with steep faces that are effectivley designed to make you aim your tee shot somewhere else (forcing a worse line into the green) or risk a forced pitchout.

  • Argonne69Argonne69 Members Posts: 20,327 ✭✭

    Yes, the sand is definitely softer in the U.S. I found the sand at St Andrews to be heavier, but not hardpan/compressed. 'Very fluffy.

  • Argonne69Argonne69 Members Posts: 20,327 ✭✭

    @Matt J said:
    Agreed that there are "few" true links courses in the USA, but there are some, and few, if any real pot bunkers.

    My thought after seeing some of the classic Scots links was that medal play is largely the reason. I really like the punitive nature of a "real" pot bunker. Muirfield, Carnoustie, and The Old Course seem to encourage you to put your tee ball into some tough spots, at best very bad angles in, just to avoid a pot bunker. It's nearly the original links version of OB. The key to managing them seems to be distance control. A player that understands the nuances of the fairway, is playing the wind, and has good distance control can flirt with the pots and find "A" positions that a player playing away from them cannot access. Allows for some aggressive lines and potential birdies based on the more difficult shot value.

    Although clearly no expert myself, I'm curious if the observation holds with many of you? Seems that the modern links architects, Kidd, Doak, Coore, et al. do not utilize this "dinosaur" of early course design whether they are building here or Scotland i.e. Castle and Renaissance - although I did not play either of those so could not verify.

    The Castle course does have a number of pot bunkers that come into play off the tee, but nowhere near the number as the Old Course. Some of the green complexes also had pot bunkers.

  • MaxBuckMaxBuck Members Posts: 340 ✭✭

    @Dancin said:

    @Argonne69 said:
    Don't pot bunkers require a lot of maintenance? I was at St Andrews two weeks ago, and I thought I heard the caddie say that they redo the sod faces every two years. That would be quite expensive for most courses.

    Most courses with that style of bunker face in the US use imitation materials that require little maintenance. TPC Colorado has a few that use Durabunker materials. Highland Meadows in Windsor, CO also has a couple bunkers with the same durabunker imitation sod faces.

    I had never heard of Durabunker before your post. Looks like a kind of sand-impregnated geotextile mat topped with fake grass that's built up kind of like stacked stone.

  • Roadking2003Roadking2003 AustinMembers Posts: 5,268 ✭✭

    @Matt J said:
    perhaps we only have 4 true links courses, the 3 at Bandon (soon to be 4) and Chambers Bay, so in all fairness we only have Kidd, Doak, RTJ Jr., and could be C and C but they aren't building any bunkers.

    How do you define "true links courses"?

  • az2auaz2au Members Posts: 1,795 ✭✭

    @Roadking2003 said:

    @Matt J said:
    perhaps we only have 4 true links courses, the 3 at Bandon (soon to be 4) and Chambers Bay, so in all fairness we only have Kidd, Doak, RTJ Jr., and could be C and C but they aren't building any bunkers.

    How do you define "true links courses"?

    There's a generally accepted definition that says it has to "link" the sea to the inland agriculturally viable land. I know that if you follow the strictest of the definition there are less than 250 true links courses in the world.

  • duffer987duffer987 Don't feed the Choo. Canadian in CaliforniaMembers Posts: 9,013 ✭✭
    edited May 7, 2019 10:26pm #22

    @Roadking2003 said:

    @Matt J said:
    perhaps we only have 4 true links courses, the 3 at Bandon (soon to be 4) and Chambers Bay, so in all fairness we only have Kidd, Doak, RTJ Jr., and could be C and C but they aren't building any bunkers.

    How do you define "true links courses"?

    I think incorrectly is the right answer in this example ;)

    Edit: To AZ's point, the Links Society or whatever they are called publish that list that I think everyone would be pretty happy to accept as as close to a definite list as there is.

  • Matt JMatt J Members Posts: 8,716 ✭✭

    @az2au said:

    @Roadking2003 said:

    @Matt J said:
    perhaps we only have 4 true links courses, the 3 at Bandon (soon to be 4) and Chambers Bay, so in all fairness we only have Kidd, Doak, RTJ Jr., and could be C and C but they aren't building any bunkers.

    How do you define "true links courses"?

    There's a generally accepted definition that says it has to "link" the sea to the inland agriculturally viable land. I know that if you follow the strictest of the definition there are less than 250 true links courses in the world.

    I agree absolutely with you @az2au - but I would add that traditional links courses seem to be granted a stay if they cover some links land meanwhile overflowing into more "agriculturally viable land" such as Gullane #2 meanwhile if that were stateside it would definitely be disqualified. I don't know if the list was compiled before or after Chambers was built and don't know if the reclaimed quarry land disqualifies Chambers but I think it is links. I've never played on Long Island, but I've heard rumor that Sebonack among others is very linksy.

    https://migrantgolfer.com/the-true-links-courses-of-the-world/

    Some great responses, thanks for playing.

  • az2auaz2au Members Posts: 1,795 ✭✭

    @Matt J I agree in a lot of ways. I've played more than half of the courses on that list and I've played several other courses that play linksy as well, including Sebonack. I don't think the designation matters all that much. The only thing I truly can't stand is courses that try to look like links but play soft. Those courses universally suck, are boring and are mostly easy.

  • spud3spud3 Portland, ORMembers Posts: 1,603 ✭✭

    @Roadking2003 said:

    @Matt J said:
    perhaps we only have 4 true links courses, the 3 at Bandon (soon to be 4) and Chambers Bay, so in all fairness we only have Kidd, Doak, RTJ Jr., and could be C and C but they aren't building any bunkers.

    How do you define "true links courses"?

    I think there are about 1,734 threads on that very question here on WRX. None of them come to a consensus.

    I'm sticking with "I can't define it, but I know a links course when I see one."

    "take that, you miserable little white swine!"
  • James the Hogan FanJames the Hogan Fan Members Posts: 427 ✭✭

    @az2au said:

    @Roadking2003 said:

    @Matt J said:
    perhaps we only have 4 true links courses, the 3 at Bandon (soon to be 4) and Chambers Bay, so in all fairness we only have Kidd, Doak, RTJ Jr., and could be C and C but they aren't building any bunkers.

    How do you define "true links courses"?

    There's a generally accepted definition that says it has to "link" the sea to the inland agriculturally viable land. I know that if you follow the strictest of the definition there are less than 250 true links courses in the world.

    One of the strictest definitions I read in ”True Links” was the course had to be in the British Isles to count...

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  • I'm surprised that nobody mentionned the origin of the pot bunkers. Before being (today) a typical links architectural feature, there was a practical reason to build bunkers like that 100+ years ago. In fact their small, deep, steep-sided nature keeps the wind from blowing away the sand ! Now, it doesn't really explain why this style hasn't been more replicated around the world (where wind can also blow strongly) but it would be probably an architectural and visual nonsense to have such bunkers on most "inland" (parkland, heathland, desert, etc) courses.

    Successfully escaping from a true pot bunker on the Old Course in St Andrews just before The Open 2005 B)

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  • Hawkeye77Hawkeye77 Countdown to The Masters! ClubWRX Posts: 17,671 ClubWRX

    @James the Hogan Fan said:

    @az2au said:

    @Roadking2003 said:

    @Matt J said:
    perhaps we only have 4 true links courses, the 3 at Bandon (soon to be 4) and Chambers Bay, so in all fairness we only have Kidd, Doak, RTJ Jr., and could be C and C but they aren't building any bunkers.

    How do you define "true links courses"?

    There's a generally accepted definition that says it has to "link" the sea to the inland agriculturally viable land. I know that if you follow the strictest of the definition there are less than 250 true links courses in the world.

    One of the strictest definitions I read in ”True Links” was the course had to be in the British Isles to count...

    Don't recall that particular qualification, but the book does have a lengthy chapter on the various views about how the term came about, different meanings and what it may mean today. The authors identify links all over the world based on what they believe a links course is.

  • Roadking2003Roadking2003 AustinMembers Posts: 5,268 ✭✭

    "Only 92 of the golf courses in Scotland (17%) are true links courses, "
    http://www.scottishgolfhistory.org/origin-of-golf-terms/links/
    From this site, it appears that "links" refers to the land rather than to the style of course.
    Personally, I couldn't care less if a course qualifies as a "true links course" and that label has no impact on my enjoyment of a course.

  • Hawkeye77Hawkeye77 Countdown to The Masters! ClubWRX Posts: 17,671 ClubWRX

    Robert Price published a book in 1989 called, "Scotland's Golf Courses". I picked it up at a bookstore a long time ago expecting a different kind of read, lol. This book is focused mostly on the "landforms" of courses, classifies them and mostly discusses them in that fashion - very geological for lack of a better term. So, it's pretty dry and not what you'd call a vacation reference. As of that time, he allowed 80 links which at that time was 19%. Coyne came up with more than 90 for his recent book, but doesn't get too deep into his criteria. True Links I think allows 82-ish but I don't feel like counting. It's kind of interesting to try and figure out which courses make the more expansive lists and why they aren't included on other lists, but really only in a we are having a blizzard and the wife is grading papers and there is absolutely nothing else to do sort of way.

    But for sure it is generally accepted that links golf relates to the conditions of the land upon which the course sits and that kind of land is in proximity to the sea for all sorts of reasons only people who went to Iowa State would understand.

  • Matt JMatt J Members Posts: 8,716 ✭✭

    I would guess that the word "links" used to describe the land between the beach and the fields predates the use of that land for golf, but I don't know definitively. There are a lot of Links Roads in Scotland and I'm not guessing that they are named because they go past golf courses.

    Anyways, it was never a huge qualification for the original question.... I don't care if it's "true links" if it plays hard and fast and the wind comes into play, then these types of pot bunkers could be utilized. Personally, the question backs up a theory, that Match Play is a more appropriate type of competition for all but the best players in which case more punitive hazards especially something like a pot bunker, which builds a ton of drama into the round unlike OB, are actually a lot more fun if all you can win/lose is a hole not the whole 4 day comp in one swing. After visiting Muirfield I think that's why it's such a popular social club (HCOEG) as they have a big party and draw their teams for alternate shot for the season. When you have a high / low pairing and switch off who hits the tee shot, the high handicap guy is going to occasionally find the hay or the pot bunker in which case the hole is pretty much lost unless the low index guy pulls off a miracle.

    Carnoustie on the other hand, between all the blind shots over the water and the pot bunkers, I think it is a great match play course and also favors a lot of local knowledge which is probably great for their local inter-club matches. Makes a lot of sense that the guys and gals up in Angus would build a monster that they could learn and defend against visiting club players from Fife and East Lothian, et al.

    It's a pretty simple theory, but it's basically that many of us tune in for 4 days of watching the best in the world every week and so we don't realize that that most stringent test is really not appropriate for less skilled players. Holding it together for one day of stroke is largely less enjoyable than firing at pins and "A" spots on the fairway only to occasionally miss and "spoil" your card or better yet simply lose a hole.

    Also, it seems that even with the increase in maintenance of the sod faces, you can put far fewer bunkers that cover far less area and accomplish the same thing as the huge bunkers we're used to stateside. My guess is that into the future, this "firm and fast" isn't going away. It's much more cost effective, easier on maintenance and the environment, so even a lot of parkland courses are going to go to drier fairways. They could potentially save a lot of money by taking out huge bunkers and replacing them with smaller versions with bigger faces still allowing for some shot value for a recovery. As I used the term "true pot bunker" I would say you hit it into those and you're thrilled if you can actually advance the ball and don't have to play out backwards.

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