Friday, October 20, 2006

Bunker Week – Part 3 – Depth

Walter Travis meant for a hazard to mean something

I thought I would explain the value of a hazard and talk about depth before we take on the concept of fairness. I thought I would begin with my favorite quote regarding the value of a bunker and what it is supposed to accomplish. Walter Travis stated, “The primary idea of a hazard [bunker] is to punish, to the extent of one stroke, a poorly placed shot, and to make the recovery exceedingly difficult, and even by the virtue of the following shot being extraordinarily good. If this end is not attained, the existing hazard fails to fulfill its function.”

I regularly deal with greens committees where players believe you should be able to get out of a bunker easily and advance the ball as far as you want to. If they had there way all bunkers would be flat. Yesterday I provided you with Max Behr’s quote to do with the line of charm. “The line of charm is the provocative path that shaves off distance and provides an ideal an ideal line” The line of charm only works when the bunkers offer enough of a deterrent to make the player not follow the line of instinct. If the bunker is shallow a player will play exceeding close and have no fear of having to extricate themselves. They will also swing the club freely since they have no fear of punishment for missing the shot. If the bunker is very deep, and the possibility exists of losing more than one shot, the player will play further away to lessen the risk. The line of charm may still be very tight to the bunkers, but the player will tend to play further away. They will also swing a little less freely if they have fear of going into the bunker. The importance of depth works on more than one level.

Often because of human nature we find ourselves in a situation where we want to risk the carry. If the bunker is shallow, there is little to be gained but an improved position on the fairway; but if the bunker is fearsome enough, then we gain the undeniable thrill of carrying a ball over such a dangerous bunker. The thrill we feel is very much related to the depth of the hazard we just carried. There is also nothing so deflating as attempting a carry over a deep bunker and realizing the ball came up short, particularly if you know you had the ability to make the carry. Part of this is the realization that we must now make a tough recovery.

Thompson's 12 feet deep bunkers on the 12th insist you play right off the tee.

The recovery is what defines the punishment or value of the hazard. If we can get to the green or have a great chance of getting up and down the bunker has limited value. The need to play backwards or “just get it” out has a place, but is not completely desirable either. The best bunkers suggest we can make the shot, but only the best recovery that we can play, one that may erase the lost stroke. Pete Dye expressed this idea of hazards and the recovery shot, “Hazards are essential to the game of golf. I cannot imagine playing without experiencing that marvelous feeling of hitting a recovery shot from a hazard, or the anticipation of my opponent trying to recover from a deep pot bunker only to have the ball catch the upper lip and roll back towards his feet. This is what makes the game exciting and keeps the players coming back for more.”

Next up the “f-word”:

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

finally a great series of articles on bunkers. keep up the great writing. I made a suggestion about 2 weeks ago about writing about bunkers and my wish came true.

would love to read more about them especially more on shape, types, different sands (some are actually better), renovating, options for courses to get rid of them (save costs) or add/move them (modern game dictates), different edges (what's consider good or bad?)

this has always been one of my most intrigued aspects of a course so I'm definitely sticking around to reading your whole series.