Aside from green surfaces, the bunkers on a golf course are the most costly features to maintain. They require regular raking, edges trimming at the very least once a month (if not more) and their surrounds mowing. Additionally there are the costs of replacing contaminated sand and blocked drainage pipes and inevitably, at some point, the ravages of time will enforce complete renovation of the bunkers.
The cost of maintaining a bunker varies considerably. An intricately shaped feature with complex grass noses and surround shaping would demand significantly more manual labour, while a simply formed bunker requires little more than a quick circuit of a triplex mower and ride-on bunker rake.
My research estimates that each bunker, depending upon its size and style, requires 30 – 60 minutes of time spent on it per week, equating to a minimum of 26 hours every year per bunker. This does not include time spent on bunker repairs or the material costs of replacing contaminated sand or blocked drainage. For example, replacing the sand in an average sized bunker of 50m2 costs in the region of £500.00 and can be a day’s worth of work.
If on average, if just one bunker / hole can be removed, imagine the savings in time and money?
Much of my work is recommending improvements to existing golf courses and more often than not, I highlight bunkers that can either be reduced in area or completely removed without in any way affecting the visual or strategic strength of the golf course.
I am a great advocate of bunkers; they are very much what golf is all about; dictating a golf courses character and visual strength. Bunkers should be professionally designed attractive features that are visible from tee to landing area and landing area to green.
Westenborg Golf Design recently completed a bunker renovation of Zagaleta Golf Club in Spain, where following a detailed report, one of the conclusions was the possible reduction in bunker sand area by almost 2000m2. This equates to a significant reduction of man hours spent on the bunkers and although not an actual budget cost saving (although one might argue that one less greenkeeper would be required), it is extra time that can now be concentrated on elsewhere on the golf course, improving the quality of the maintenance and the golf courses sustainability.
The bunkers on the afore-mentioned golf course also have one of the many extremely effective liners on the market. They remove the risk of sand contamination, stone ingress and blocked drainage; two very expensive problems.
Depending upon the size of a bunker and the specification of bunker liner, the cost of a newly renovated bunker including a golf course architect (recommended) and experienced golf course shaper (also recommended) and all material costs is between £2,000.00 and £5,000.00 each. A high cost but the combination of reducing the number of bunkers and consequent reduction of maintenance and material costs, not to mention retention of existing membership and generation of new membership, the cost is undoubtedly, well worth it.