Hazard Ahead – Sand Depth Matters

By Keith Happ, director, North-Central Region
September 3, 2013

Sand depth affects bunker performance. This bunker sand was installed to a 3-inch depth when it was recommended to be installed at an 8-inch depth. An accredited physical soil testing laboratory can determine the appropriate depth of sand to be used during bunker construction or renovation.

Regular irrigation has been required to maintain healthy turf while portions of the North-Central Region have been in the grip of recent dry weather. When greens and fairways are irrigated, bunkers will also receive irrigation. During Turf Advisory Service visits, golfers have asked why bunker sand is wet and firm. If the sand is not installed to the proper depth, it will not drain rapidly, and this will affect how bunkers perform.

A bunker is a hazard and there is no rule that mandates a hazard must be consistent. However, the depth of sand affects how bunkers perform under various weather conditions. If sand is installed too shallow, with the intent of producing firm playing conditions (or possibly saving money), it will not drain uniformly. Bunker slopes may be dry, but low-lying areas of the bunker will collect water and not release it into drains. Thus, when irrigation is used for many days in a row, golfers experience wet and dry conditions within bunkers. Shallow sand depth is also why some bunkers remain too wet and become contaminated with algae at the sand surface.

There are many factors to consider when selecting bunker sand. Testing the sand is important and one measurement – particle size distribution – can be used to determine the ideal depth of sand for a bunker. A few inches of less-than-ideal sand depth can have a significant impact on playability and drainage. Give our North-Central offices a call if you have any questions: Keith Happ at (412) 341-5922 or Bob Vavrek at (262) 797-8743

Source: Keith Happ khapp@usga.org  

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