Thursday, March 01, 2007

Should bunkers be inside the fairway lines only?

Pacific Dunes #3, offers an excellent example

The best bunkers are built when they are placed where you want to go. I’m not talking about cutting off an avenue of approach, but in a position where you would have naturally played for if there were no bunkers. Or as Alister Mackenzie eloquently said, “A hazard placed in the exact position where a player would naturally go is frequently the most interesting situation, as then special effort is needed to get over or avoid it”

The 16th at St. Andrew’s is made by the location of the Principal’s nose. The bunker cluster is about 260 yards off the tee in the exact location you would play for if the hole had no bunkers. Because of the out of bounds is on the right edge of the fairway, you would naturally aim to the left side of that fairway hoping to cut it back into the middle. Therefore the bunker location creates an instant decision from the tee.

The Braid Bunker at Nairn

The 5th hole at Nairn is a favourite of mine and the bunker added by James Braid makes an enormous difference to your decision making from the tee. It’s not in the exact position you would like to go, since that involves hugging the beach, but in the exact place you would naturally bail to avoiding flirting with the beach. Braid keeps you honest with that one simple bunker.

My final example is the 5th hole at Friar’s Head. Coore and Crenshaw placed a bunker about 260 yards out from the tee, right in line with the green, that must be flown or skirted if you want to reach the green on this short par four. The smart play is to lay-up, but this solitary bunker challenges your psyche and makes you want to flirt with certain trouble. Mike Stranz suggests that, “The more you flirt with a hazard – the closer you stay to hazards or successfully carry hazards – the shorter the distance you should have to a hole with a better angle of approach” By moving bunkers to the interior of the fairways, you have to flirt even more in order to gain the best position on the hole. The remaining width on either side of the bunkering is to allow for more options for positional play and more width for the average player.

Frair's Head's 5th hole bunker, right where you want to hit it

As Willie Park Jr. summed up my thoughts best, “If a bunker is visible to the player, and there is sufficient room to avoid it, it is the player’s responsibility to steer clear of it.” If there are optional ways around the hazard and different ways to play the hole, now we have a lot more interest that flanking fairway bunkers could ever provide.


Anonymous said...

The former fairway bunker on #5 at St. George's is a great example also.It was left of centre in the crown of the hill, about 240 out. It should be restored in the middle of the night sometime. JG

Dick Kirkpatrick said...

Did you notice that there is an uncanny resemblence between the 5th hole at Nairn and the 5th hole at Friars Head.