Name the worst golf ball lie in the game? While some may argue that any ball out-of-bounds or in a lake is the most likely candidate, let’s narrow it down to a ball that lands in a hazard and is usually playable: a bunker. Remember, bunkers are hazards designed to be avoided, so they do not need to be perfectly consistent as many players desire. There is, however, one lie in a bunker that truly can be very difficult, and in extreme cases, can result in lost balls or unplayable situations. Yes, I speak of the dreaded “fried-egg” lie. Several golf facilities from the highest budget to the lowest in the Northwest are now virtually eliminating this situation with one minor change in their raking technique.
Shown in the photo is a good example of a trend that is occurring with golf courses that simply want to rid golf balls burying on the face of their bunkers. The bottoms of bunkers are regularly raked; however, the sides are either not raked on a regular basis or smoothed without raking teeth to allow the sand to firm. The positives and negatives reported with this technique are as follows:
- Virtually eliminates all buried lies, especially over an extended period of time as the bunker face remains firm.
- Minimizes labor hours needed to rake bunkers.
- Minimizes sand contamination from soil and rocks as sand is not moved down the slope when a power raking machine is used. When hand raking is completed the same situation occurs to a lesser extent.
- Helps retain bunker edges as hand raking excess sand over the edges is greatly reduced.
- Based on climate, algae may form and must be carefully controlled. Occasional hand raking is still needed when this occurs.
- Bunkers may look a little different.
- Players will still walk out of bunkers on the faces requiring occasional “touch-up” raking. When players rake these areas they often go too deep resulting in more frequent plugged lies.
As spring arrives you may wish to give this simple idea a try at your golf facility if you face the plague of “fried-egg” lies. Let’s face it; they really are not a lot of fun.
Information on the USGA’s Course Consulting Service
Contact the Green Section Staff