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February 2019

Bunker Innovations Benefit Course Owners

By Steve Eubanks

The battle of the bunkers has one clear winner: golf course owners. 

With fewer new courses coming online in the U.S., talented architects and engineers who were previously tied up with new construction projects have modified their businesses. Now, the best and brightest in our industry create clever innovations to make course renovations cheaper and easier than ever. 

Nowhere is that more evident than in bunker construction. The two most important features of any golf facility are the putting greens and the bunkers. They occupy the most time, attention and maintenance dollars and are among the first things noticed by the consumer. They also are the most expensive to renovate. That’s why entrepreneurs are battling to ease the pain, especially of the bunker-renovation process. 

The two leading systems for bunkers these days are the Better Billy Bunkers, designed by former Augusta National superintendent Billy Fuller, and the Capillary Concrete system. Different operators offer varying opinions on which offers the best value. Hazeltine National experimented with both and chose Better Billy Bunkers. So did North Shore in Chicago and Druid Hills Country Club in Atlanta, among others of note. Troon Golf, in at least a dozen renovations in the last two years, has gone with Capillary Concrete. 

One of those Troon properties, Sun City Hilton Head in Bluffton, South Carolina, completed a four-month renovation project last October, which included installing the Capillary Concrete bunker system throughout the development’s Argent Lakes Golf Course.

“We’re thrilled with the way the Argent Lakes course enhancements turned out,” said Charlie Kent, the director of golf operations at Sun City. 

Both Capillary Concrete and the Better Billy Bunkers work in a similar way: a two-inch layer of gravel is installed in the bottom of the bunkers and covered with an adhesive polymer that holds the stones in place while still allowing water to pass through. When sand is added, rainwater penetrates the sand and flows through the gravel where it is funneled to a drain without washing out the sand. The type of gravel and the polymers are the main differences between the two systems, although representatives from each will extol their product’s virtue and superiority over the other. 

As for the Troon experience, Kent said, “The new bunkers are gorgeous and consistent. The shorter Argent Lakes course has always been a favorite among our members and guests and with the recent renovations now complete, we expect that trend will continue.”

Steve Eubanks is an Atlanta-based freelance writer and New York Times bestselling author.

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