Nothing beats the value of short grass, often more dangerous than a bunker.
Short grass around greens is undoubtedly the greatest equalizer in golf.
Bluegrass surrounding a green offers only one type of recovery — the flop shot — a favorite of good players. For the good players a ring of bluegrass is also helpful since it contains a narrowly missed approach from getting too far from the green. However, if the green surrounds are closely mown, that same near miss often gets propelled away from the green leaving a difficult recovery. Players know with short grass that should they get too aggressive, they may par dearly if they miss their approach.
The average player struggle with green side bunkers because of their limited skills and will even play extra shots to avoid them. Strong players will often play to a green side bunker knowing that the lie will be excellent and they have the skill to get up and down – which has reduced the strategic value of many bunkers. So how do we challenge the better players more and not affect the average guy who already struggles with the game
The answer is more short grass around the greens. The average player will always play the shot that suits their strengths. A good putter will putt from off the green and a good chipper will play a bump and run. The fun begins when a player has the ability to hit multiple types of recovery shots well - now they will have to make a decision.
The good player must decide whether to putt, bump and run, or to attempt a flop shot. Options present opportunities, but also lead to mistakes. The US Open at Pinehurst showed the difficulty created by short grass around greens. The flop will result in more hole outs, but conversely brings a greater risk of hitting fat or thin due to the tightness of the lie. That is why even the greatest players find themselves still in off the green occasionally after a poorly executed chip.
One of the joys of using grass slopes around greens is that water from the green can spill out onto the chipping areas allowing for much more intricate contouring of the green surface. With bunkering you must keep the water away and it does tend to limit the green contour – particularly when a green is heavily bunkered. When you throw in the cost to make and maintain a bunker versus a nice slope of short grass – it makes you wonder why so many greens are so heavily bunkered.