Golf Sustainability: Is it time to look beyond bunkers?

2 minute read

Did you know that bunkers are one of the least sustainable aspects of a golf course?

It sounds silly – they are pits of sand – but therein lies the issue. Indeed, aggregates like sand are not an infinite resource, and costs are spiralling as supplies dwindle.

The R&A have made aggregates one of their main focuses as part of their Golf Course 2030 project.

They say: “With restriction in supply becoming more severe in some areas of Great Britain and Ireland, there is a real imperative to look at both alternative materials and approaches.”

Aggregates are vital for the maintenance of a golf course. Gravel is an important element of drainage systems and sand is not only used for bunkers but also for top-dressing and levelling greens.

Thankfully, research into alternative and recycled materials is well underway, but it makes sense for golf courses to find alternative – and more sustainable – methods of punishing stray shots.

England Golf Sustainability Manager, Owen James, said: “Golf course architects are moving into a space where they’re coming up with alternatives to sand traps.

“You can make as much of a hazard out of grass as you can anything else. Even more so, in my opinion.

“Bunkers have been improved to the point where some golfers expect a good lie every time, which defeats the object.

“When you think about how a bunker was created, it was just a scraped sandy hole full of rocks on a links course. Now we have some players aiming at them because they think they will have a better lie [than in the rough].

“We can get creative with grass bunkers and make sure the landscape is shaped in a way that does not need sand. Or just turn them into water hazards, of course.

“Hedges, shrubs, trees – there’s a lot that we can do. The current argument [for keeping them] is their visual impact from a tee, but there are solutions.”

You can make as much of a hazard out of grass as you can anything else. Even more so, in my opinion.
Owen James - Sustainability Manager, England Golf

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