Abstract: Tired, poorly defined golf bunkers provide unsatisfactory golf course visuals. Poor bunker location infuriates golfers penalized for good shots, and outdated shapes distract from golf course aesthetics. When a rebuild won’t work, it’s time to remove the bunker.
Bunker removal begins with a site assessment. You will replace the bunker with a flat surface that looks natural. The filled-in area should blend in with surrounding fairway and rough grades.
The project scenario:
- View the bunker from all sides. Visualize what a flattening will do with surrounding grades. Expand work limit so you remove all existing bunker forms. I know, this will increase the work limits and increase cost, but if you keep a remnant of a former bunker grade you will regret it. It’s common to remove 3 or 4 times the bunker floor area in total work area.
- Look for surface drainage flow patterns and irrigation impacts. Don’t create a water pocket or divert water from properly functioning surface flow. Stub existing bunker irrigation and watch out for valve boxes and sprinklers; raise or move as needed.
- Install wooden stakes on proposed work limits, and adjust as needed. If you can’t determine the surface water flow by eye, use a laser. If you are filling in a bunker that has strong mounding, you may want to incorporate some of the fill into a subtle mound.
- Paint out final work limits, and remove sod. You may want to save existing fairway sod. Using an excavator, or backhoe, scrape all the bunker topsoil and stockpile nearby. Leave the bunker sand in place, it’s not worth the trouble moving it out. To prevent settling, install solid fill in 8″ lifts (layers) and compact with excavator tracks. I usually build these fill areas strong by adding a six inch crown to allow for some settling. Surface the final 6 inches with topsoil.
The removed bunker should provide joy to golfers, while reducing your golf course worry list.