I’m a big believer in bunkering being the best of the strategic hazards. I like the fact that a player has the opportunity to hit a recovery out of a bunker shot and save a stroke or conversely could get too aggressive and leave the ball in more than once and compound their own problems. I like the fact that the recovery requires skill and judgment – no other hazard does this quite as well.
I’ve never been a fan of hazards like out of bounds and water (although I like creeks) where the loss is stroke and distance giving the player a two shot penalty. Other architects believe that water hazards are required to place additional pressure on the player. Well, the same can be said for an exceptionally deep tough bunker, but the difference is that the player may still recover from that hazard and on occasion may not even lose a stroke through truly exceptional play.
For strategy to be meaningful, the bunkering must have enough depth to punish the player a shot to par unless they manage through great skill to save that shot.
Great bunkering not only defends and defines the lines of play but it also supplies the psychological pressure of knowing what your fate will be if you miss the shot. The recovery shot required to extricate you from a bunker is what defines the punishment you will face, which in turn defines the value of the hazard. If the bunker is very deep, and the possibility exists of losing more than one shot, a player will play away to lessen the risk. If the bunker defends the ideal place to be and must be flirted with to gain the ideal position then that same deep bunker has great strategic value.
If the player always wants to flirt with the bunker until he eventually hits it in, only to find that he immediately plays well away the next round, only to begin to flirt closer and closer until he hits it in once more - then you have a perfect bunker.
You see there is nothing more thrilling or appealing than skirting over an impressive or fearsome hazard, but it’s only a thrill when you know the certain disaster that you just avoided. The only way to create that scenario – to have meaningful hazards – is with bunker depth.