Each year I grow in respect and admiration for golf course superintendents as professionals. They are problem-solvers, perfection-seekers, nature-lovers, or avid golfers with interest in producing a golf playing surface. From Florida to Vancouver, Portland to Portland and beyond the border in Canada, Europe, Australia and South America, golf course superintendents are getting it done.
As an homage to my superintendent pals, I see trends in management and golfer demands that bug me. I know for many superintendents I meet, these things that bug me are issues related to not enough investment in infrastructure for many years, business pressures, club politics, poor communication skills, course design, golfer skill level, etc.
In no particular order here's Part One
Bunkers (too many, poorly constructed, poorly maintained)
I dont have to tell anyone who is charged with producing high quality bunkers on a regular basis the constant vigilance required. There is no question the easiest way to reduce resources associated with bunker maintenance is to have them properly constructed to maximize drainage and minimize contamination. But steep faces still wash, ask the courses on Long Island that received 13" in two hours!
Steep grass faces are no bargain either, these need to be flymo-ed, line trimmed, fertilized, sprayed with PGR's, now sprayed for disease and insects regularly. You can go with the eye-brow approach but this is extremely penal and will surely slow pace of play.
Far and away the thing that bugs me about bunkers is the disproportionate relationship among original design, resources required for maintenance, and expectations of performance. Some courses (and bunkers) were built and designed with larger maintenance forces that now have been reduced 30 to 50 percent. Many have exceeded the original useful life and there is no amount of labor that will make up for bathtubs filled with silt and stone.
The "billy-bunker" concept of porous pavement is catching on with different twists, some are still using sod liners, some cloth liners. Be sure the options are well-researched and applicable to your situation, amount of water moving through, freeze-thaw, etc.. For steep faces, many are wetting and compacting to insure the ball wont plug in the face. I wonder why we don't apply "Dirt-Glue" or some other form of polymer to stabilize the sand. The military in the desert use these sand stabilizers to keep dust down when landing helicopters. Could save lots of time and energy with faces, but might not take the impact of the ball.
Andrew Green presented an interesting idea in a recent tweet where he showed the reduction of sand area AND improvement in targeting and purposing of the "Eden" hole on the Grace Course at Saucon Valley. Well designed and constructed with less sand to manage an excellent approach.
Many other courses should be questioning bunkers en-masse! What about simply removing some bunkers as a means of reducing sand area? Do our players even hit to where these bunkers are? I will argue as many have in the past, I'd rather have no bunker than a poorly maintained one.
Coming soon: Things that Bug Me Part 2: Time and energy spent in "low maintenance NATIVE areas"!