Bunker, Trap, Beach – Why?

Is There a History or Even a Substantial Reason for Bunkers?

I recall a cartoon from decades ago in which an Arab sheik, sand wedge in hand approaches a bunker on the golf course. His words are “Ah! Now that’s more like it!” In a hunt for the origin of these cruel protectors of the green, that sentiment might serve as the best answer. Most sports, perhaps with the exception of croquet, set up the game in the same way it is set up  everywhere else. Schedule a tennis match on Mars, and the players will know the dimensions of the c ourt, and menu of surfaces. A golfer doesn’t know that. The venue comes out of the land.

Most countries with beaches know what sand is, and it is easy to see why it might appear on a coastal course. However, if we’re going with the theory that golf emerges from its natural environment, what is it doing in the lake and forest country of the Pacific Northwest and western Canada? When I started the search for the person who first had the idea of a bunker, I found some interesting responses, such as “The cruelest person in the history of mankind, that’s who” So, I amended my query to “how and why?”
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All right, Scotland has both sheep and sand. In some parts of the globe, sand is treated with water and left to bake into a hard surface in the hot sun. Fine for the cart path, but for the rest of it? I don’t buy it. Those Scottish sheep apparently nestled into the sand during bouts of harsh weather, and left impressions. There, the bunker was born. Score one for Scotland. Sheep depressions are a natural feature of rural Scottish life – got it. Granted, sand is more salvageable than water in terms of buying golf balls, so I probably shouldn’t wish that fish or moles nestled in the same spot

So far, so good, but have you seen what human beings have down to the modest sheep depression, besides taking the concept to ground that shares little to no history with sand? Some of those holes must have been created by some pretty impressive sheep. Trap might be a better word than bunker, because they look like the holes dug by Martians in early ’50s sci-fi movies. One gets the idea that one might never return if he goes down there.
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Sand in golf is, or should be, a different matter for pros and amateurs. The guys who make money at it know the intricacies of the bunker shot. It’s almost just as good as grass for the best ones. For the rest of us, not so much. The perfect instrument was designed by the great Gene Sarazen for getting out of such trouble – the sand wedge, high loft and heavy flange to lift the ball out. That’s all well and good for Sarazen, but I can flip hotcakes with that club better than I can use it in the depression left by a four ton sheep. Come to think of it, maybe the term bunker is better. Some of these monstrosities look like they were built to protect the homeland, not just the green.

For the muni golfer, the traps played by pros are way, way too much for us. Those who understand our limitations, teaching pros, generally caution us to get out of that thing in any direction we can. Lose the stroke, they say, and save a far greater disaster. If it’s a fairway bunker, chip it out. Yes, Arnie hit drivers out of the bunker, but you and I don’t.

Would you believe that there is an entire website devoted to this one phenomenon found only on golf courses.  Go to The Sand Trap.com if you require any information on this – I’m not kidding. Meanwhile, I’ll try to improve my attitude, and be thankful they didn’t decide on quicksand instead.

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