A Feature on Most Golf Holes
adding to the challenge.
The Rules of Golf define a bunker as "a hazard consisting of a prepared area of ground, often a hollow, from which turf or soil has been removed and replaced with sand or the like."
The inattentive golfer can incur a penalty for accidentally grounding his or her club, or thoughtlessly removing a loose impediment. Under the Rules you must positively identify your ball. Previously there was no penalty for playing the wrong ball in the hazard.
Most high-handicap golfers have a phobia about shots played from sand believing they are difficult to execute. Overcome with fear and with a mind overburdened with swing thoughts they freeze over the ball, and the resultant jab or flick is usually disastrous. However, the skilled player knows that such a shot is one of the easiest in golf and confidently employs a lazy fluid swing.
Originally bunkers were not man-made creations. They were naturally formed hollows or areas excavated by grazing animals on the side of dunes to protect themselves against the harsh elements.
Nowadays they form part and parcel of a golf architect’s design kit. As the game’s original hazard, they are predominantly used to add interest to the hole by creating a challenge for the golfer. Sometimes it is the only way of creating sufficient difficulty.
Their design also helps to delineate a hole. They act to catch the wayward drive as they are strategically placed at the corner of most doglegs. Others form part of the green complex. Very occasionally they are out of play and appear to be for aesthetic purposes only.
Dr Alister MacKenzie, designer of three renown golf courses – Augusta National in Georgia, Cypress Point in California and Royal Melbourne in Australia – wrote in 1920 in his book Golf Architecture that "most golfers have an entirely erroneous view of the real object of hazards.
The majority of them simply look upon hazards as a means of punishing a bad shot, when the real object is to make the game interesting."
It is as hard to imagine any golf course without bunkers, as it is to imagine an art gallery without paintings. However, there are some public courses where they are absent. The traditional hazards have been replaced by grass hollows as they are less expensive to maintain.
On the old-styled links courses, unlike their modern counterparts, the sand traps, as they are sometimes referred to in conversation, tend to be small and submerged, sometimes hidden from view. They are built this way to prevent the wind blowing away the sand.
All man-made hazards add richly to the history and fabric of the game. Apart from the more common practice of naming each hole, some Scottish links, and in particular St Andrews, give special names to a few of their bunkers, a tradition that is sometimes adopted elsewhere.
At Oakmont Country Club in Pennsylvania the large sand trap between the third and fourth fairways with its turf islands is known as the 'church pews' because of its notable configuration.
Probably the most famous sand hazard in golf is at the 17th hole of the Old Course at St Andrews. Although it is only one of many that litter the fairways and green surrounds, it is the one that is most feared.
Every five years the British Open returns to the home of golf and the drama is played out in front of an eager crowd who lean over the stone wall that lies hard by the green. Adding to the menace is the old tarmac toll road skirting the narrow sloping putting surface.
It is this road that gives the hazard its name. The lone pot bunker guards the left side of the hole and is a magnet for balls. During the tournament the BBC sadistically buries a camera in its steep-walled face to record at close quarters the struggles of each day.
It is ironic that when you can save yourself from the sand with mindless ease, you seldom get the opportunity to demonstrate your skill and so invite the envy of your fellow competitors.
The sandy grave of a bunker only seem to attract passing golfers who lack the know-how to extricate themselves successfully. It beckons as surely as the Sirens in Homer's Iliad beckoned Ulysses to the rocks.
1 = bookstellyouwhy.com
2 = bbc.co.uk