A Useful Technique in Sand Bunker Renovation

by James T. Snow, National Director, USGA Green Section
first published in the Green Section RECORD, March/April 1986

Sooner or later, every golf course superintendent is faced with rebuilding sand bunker edges and banks that have deteriorated through excessive sand buildup. One of the most critical steps in this process is establishing a well-defined border that gives the bunker its final shape and aesthetic appeal. When the sand bunker is on a relatively flat plane, strips of plywood or metal sheeting work reasonably well in establishing these edges. This method doesn't provide enough support, though, where large, elevated capes and mounds are involved.

At the Winged Foot Golf Club, in Mamaroneck, New York, Bob Alonzi has developed a technique for rebuilding the banks around the large, caped sand bunkers that eliminates the problems associated with plywood or metal strips. Thinking back to his days spent filling sandbags in the Army, Bob came up with the idea of filling medium-sized burlap bags with soil and using them to form the perimeter of the new capes and mounds.

Plywood or metal edging works reasonably well

But soil-filled burlap bags...

work better
Using the burlap bags in this way has many advantages. The bags form a solid, stable edge, yet they can be moved and molded to provide the precisely desired effect. Once the bags are in place and the soil has been used to backfill behind and between them, sod can be laid on the soil and directly over the bags to establish the capes and mounds. Because the burlap is porous and biodegradable, turfgrass roots grow through the burlap and become established in the soil below, and ultimately the burlap will decompose. Thus, there is no need to use artificial support such as plywood strips or metal sheeting for establishing the bunker edges, and there is no need to remove them later. Once the sod is in place and the roots have become established, the job is essentially finished.

In using this procedure, Bob suggests that the sod be brought down directly over the rounded edge of the bag. Final edging can be done when the sod becomes rooted and well established. He also suggests that this technique can be practical for a variety of other uses on the golf course, including landscaping hard-to-work slopes, building retaining slopes for ponds, for outlining walkways, etc.

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