The Saga Of Wet Bunkers
By Pat Gross, director, Southwest RegionAugust 5, 2014
|Wet sand and standing water in this bunker is a
sign of inadequate drainage and contaminated sand conditions. Instead of
reconfiguring the irrigation system to keep water out of hazards, it is best to
focus on bunker drainage, sand quality and maintenance.|
It happens just about the same time every year. Superintendents
in the Southwest start to hear complaints from golfers about “wet bunkers.” One
would think that the hot, humid weather over the past two weeks would have
people concerned about the survival of putting green turf, but the sandy
hazards seem to be a higher priority for some golfers.
There are several reasons why bunker sand tends to
be wet during the summer, especially in the early morning hours:
water is being applied to surrounding turf areas each night, some of which
lands in the bunkers.
some locations, it is necessary to occasionally water greens deeply – also
called leaching – to flush harmful salts and sodium away from sensitive turf
roots. Some of that water ends up in bunkers.
bunker sand that is contaminated with silt, clay and organic debris tends to
retain more moisture than newer, cleaner sand.
A misguided suggestion that is often made is to just
move the sprinklers so they don’t spray into bunkers. This is a bad idea. Golf
course irrigation systems are designed with sprinklers spaced in a 60- to 65-feet
triangular pattern to provide the most even irrigation coverage possible.
Arbitrarily moving sprinklers ends up creating a wet spot in one area (where
the sprinkler spacing is compressed) and a dry spot in another (where the
sprinkler spacing is expanded).
Instead of reconfiguring the irrigation system, it
is best to concentrate on bunker drainage, sand quality and maintenance with
the following activities:
- Increase the frequency of raking and
cultivation to help bunker sand dry quickly.
- Check that subsurface drain pipes in the
bunkers are working properly and are not clogged with debris or tree roots.
- Check sand quality and replace sand as
- Make a visit to the golf professional to
see if you are using the proper sand wedge for the type of sand at your course
and maybe get a quick lesson to brush up on bunker play.
Pat Gross (firstname.lastname@example.org)
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