bunker work

Sallandsche Bunker Renovation Part I: The Story by Brett Hochstein

Hole 11 at Sallandsche Golf Club 'De Hoek' in Diepenveen, The Netherlands.

Hole 11 at Sallandsche Golf Club 'De Hoek' in Diepenveen, The Netherlands.

As those who follow @HochsteinDesign on Twitter and Instagram well know, I was very much involved recently in a bunker renovation with Dutch architect Frank Pont of Infinite Variety Golf Design at the Sallandsche Golf Club in Diepenveen, The Netherlands.  Located about an hour and a half east of Amsterdam near the wonderful Ijssel River town of Deventer, Sallandsche is one of the more pleasant and culturally rich places I've had the opportunity to work.

The golf course itself has some history as well with its original holes designed by Frank Spalding in 1934 comprising one of the oldest clubs in Holland.  Like the other great old courses of the country, the original holes were built upon land naturally suited for the game.  The spit of sandy heathland that splits the current 10th, 17th, and 18th holes is full of Scotch Pines, heather, and ground movement and is the cornerstone from which the rest of the course builds outward.  It was fitting then that we began at the short par 4 17th with its original angled cross bunker scheme, and hindsight proved it to be a good decision as the rugged heathland character bunkers we built set the tone and style for the rest of the project.  

Old aerials show crossing hazards and natural looking bunkers angled strategically in ways consistent with the period.  Through the addition of more holes over the years and general changes to the course, the interesting 1930s strategies and aesthetics were for the most part lost.  Simply shaped unnatural bunkers would flank greens at the sides instead of cutting off a corner of the putting surface or sitting short in the approach.  The effect was that there was no player engagement with the hazards unless a shot was hit poorly long to the right or the left.  A game of thought and execution was reduced instead to just a game of execution. Furthermore, a number of these bunkers were hardly even visible to the player, which, given the sand flashed style and the flatness of most holes, is rather odd and a missed opportunity for visual impact.  

Frank Pont had been working with the club for years to put together a plan to remediate the problems mentioned above with the following goals--increase strategy, restore a classic and more natural aesthetic, and improve visibility.  When it came time for approval and getting to work, Frank got in touch with Hochstein Design to discuss potential bunker styles and eventually coming to Holland to do the shaping.   

After looking at site images, discussing the club's preferences for maintenance, and talking about the history of the club and its context in Holland, we set to looking at comparables.  Flat sites like Garden City GC and Chechessee Creek in America quickly came to mind, as did a number of Harry Colt and Tom Simpson examples found around Europe.  After this analysis and talks with Frank, Hochstein Design proposed a flashed style with naturally moving lines but few capes and bays to enhance visible sand and keep maintenance simpler.  

Proposed stylistic rendering for the bunker work at Sallandsche.  The style called for flashed sand with naturally textured edges and a horizontal nature fitting of the site. 

Proposed stylistic rendering for the bunker work at Sallandsche.  The style called for flashed sand with naturally textured edges and a horizontal nature fitting of the site. 

The previous bunkering at the 17th shows a low and simplistic version of bunkering that doesn't fully take advantage of the nearby heathland texture.

The previous bunkering at the 17th shows a low and simplistic version of bunkering that doesn't fully take advantage of the nearby heathland texture.

The new bunkering was outlined in the report as containing or accomplishing the following:

" -Elements of both Colt and Simpson, Golden Age architects who played an important role in European golf design, Colt especially so in Holland.

-Scale is appropriate to that of the property and in line with current amount of maintenance

-Lines have interest but are not too “busy” or repetive, allowing a clean but natural look.

-Increased sand flash profile increases aesthetic style of golf course, makes hazards more visible to golfers, and adds more challenge and strategy in avoiding them.

-Texture in heather and fescue is added for further interest and definition but is not too thick and prominent where balls are lost and unplayable lies are had.

-Heather and fescue bunker edges should be low maintenance and require more infrequent attention than mowed turf.

-Construction works with current grade and does not require soil to be imported."  

Work was slated early in the summer to begin on September 16th, and sure enough everyone along with the requested excavator and knuckle bucket was there that day with work getting started right away.  For those who work in this business or any kind of construction, it is understood how rare and refreshing it is to have a start date actually start on time, especially when planned so far in advance.  This is a big credit to both the club and De Enk Groene and Golf, the contracted maintenance team who also supplied the equipment and extra labor.  With everything functioning and everyone cooperating, I was enjoying the relatively fast and efficient start.  After just a couple of days of stripping the grass and getting used to the machine and tight working quarters (this was my first time shaping on an existing course and using a knuckle attachment, a request that proved highly valuable in the end), the first row of three bunkers were rough shaped. 

The plan was always to do at least some of the finish work myself to try and perfect the details, though we weren't sure just how much the schedule would allow for it.  With the loose sandy soil, the first three cross bunkers on 17 were rake shaped and edged quite quickly.  It became apparent at that point that this might be something that we can do for all of the bunkers, and indeed that ended up being the case.  Re-used grass sods went back down on the lead-in front sides right away, and it was decided to buy in new fescue sods for the top edges since there was not enough quality native on site to harvest.  No heather was added at this time, but it might be something to consider later on if done only sporadically.  The long term strategy will be to let the fescue and whatever else grow on top but keep it thin enough for playability.  

The 17th hole after the finish work.  The loose sandy material was so easy to work that the hand work for all 4 bunkers was completed by Hochstein Design in a little over a day, cumulatively.  Note that the final shapes and lines are not exactly what was drawn, but the spirit and style is still the same.  Working in the field almost always leads to doing something a little differently and, far more often than not, better.

The 17th hole after the finish work.  The loose sandy material was so easy to work that the hand work for all 4 bunkers was completed by Hochstein Design in a little over a day, cumulatively.  Note that the final shapes and lines are not exactly what was drawn, but the spirit and style is still the same.  Working in the field almost always leads to doing something a little differently and, far more often than not, better.

This would become the process for the next 3 months--rough shape, move the machine to the next spot, do the hand work, shape the next one while the guys lay down the grass, repeat.  After 6 weeks though, there was the opportunity for one more element--finish cutting the edges on the already grassed bunkers.  Because of the loose soil, it was essential to lay the grass down and over the edge to help keep it stable.  After the 6 weeks or so, there was just enough rooting and solidarity in the sod that edges could be cut without much damage or slipping of the sods.  Just like the finish work, this went pleasantly quickly and successfully, and it became apparent that perhaps the cutting would also fall under the responsibility of Hochstein Design.  It's a rare thing due to time demands for a designer/shaper to be able to do their own finish work; it's even more rare for the same designer/shaper to do their own sod cutting.  That is pretty much ideal for Hochstein Design's methodology--have as much control over the creative as possible--and we are appreciative of Sallandsche giving us the opportunity to work in a way that is foreign to the present design and construction standards of Holland (and still most everywhere).  

he greenside bunkers on the 4th hole after finish work and at the start of grassing.  Just in case things appear to change or look different, I always like to take a few pictures to be able to refer back to for the final cutting or painting of the edge.

he greenside bunkers on the 4th hole after finish work and at the start of grassing.  Just in case things appear to change or look different, I always like to take a few pictures to be able to refer back to for the final cutting or painting of the edge.

The 4th hole after grassing and before cutting.  The contrast of the green is nice, but this is probably my least favorite state of bunker construction.  I can't wait to go back in and get back the original finished character of the edge.

The 4th hole after grassing and before cutting.  The contrast of the green is nice, but this is probably my least favorite state of bunker construction.  I can't wait to go back in and get back the original finished character of the edge.

The 4th hole a few days after edge cutting and clean-up.

The 4th hole a few days after edge cutting and clean-up.

Construction continued on with only the slightest of hiccups and slowdowns.  Another advantage of having a multitasking shaper is that you can always keep them busy.  When the machine needed some maintenance or there was a big area of sod to strip, I could leave it to De Enk and either do some finish work or edge cutting of the already grassed bunkers.  There was very little downtime, and the project of 37 new bunkers, 21 fill-ins, and 4 green surrounds ended up completely shaped and grassed (minus the 3rd hole, which the club is currently undecided on) with about half of the new bunkers edged out and open for play, all in 59 working days.  Considering the intricacy of the final product and involvement level, that's not too bad and a credit to all involved.  Harry Otten, course manager of Sallandsche, would bend over backward if asked in order to keep both the project moving and everyone happy.  Arthur Berends, manager at De Enk, was instrumental in getting a great machine and any other resources necessary for the project.  The grounds crew of De Enk was helpful, quick, and showed adaptability to do things a little different than they might be used to doing.  Maarten Amse and the rest of the club committee of Sallandsche were excellent in all of their support and understanding of what Frank and I were trying to do.  And lastly, Frank Pont was wonderful in his presence, commitment to good work, allowance of creative license, and ability to make quick decisions out in the field.  

Golf course design and construction is a team effort, and any successful project has a lot of moving parts behind the scenes doing their job well.  This bunker renovation at Sallandsche is certainly an example of that.  

Now, what about the remaining bunkers that had not been edged?  Fortunately, the club was happy to bring back Hochstein Design in the following spring of 2015 before the start of the seasonal competitions to complete the rest of the edging and also do some work at the practice area bunkers.  Images of this and more of the course will be coming up in the next section--Part II: Front 9 Imagery.

An updated scorecard drawing for Sallandsche showing all of the new bunkers and their positions.

An updated scorecard drawing for Sallandsche showing all of the new bunkers and their positions.

Bunkering in Brazil by Brett Hochstein

The first hole at Fazenda Boa Vista (Palmer) during grow in

The first hole at Fazenda Boa Vista (Palmer) during grow in

I had the fortunate opportunity to fill the month of May with some work for Arnold Palmer Design Company on their new course down in Porto Feliz, Brasil--about an hour and a half west of Sao Paulo--at Fazenda Boa Vista.  The main charge for the month was to go through all the bunkers, most of which at this point had already been established in grass.  There were still some bunkers in the dirt though awaiting to be grassed.  For these, it was decided that with a few simple moves and a couple of laborers, the work could be done by hand to avoid extra cleanup and also free up the excavator for other uses and keep the grassing program moving along, especially with the growing season for warm-season bermuda quickly coming to a close.  With my new hard-working amigos that spoke none of my language and me only a tiny bit of theirs, we set to chipping away at the hard soil and resetting the lines, mainly either simplifying them or extending them on the low corners.

Hole 15 fairway after edits.  The foreground bunker was extended left and made to look like it is sweeping more down the hillside.  The bunker in the far ground had the squiggly-ness of the low left side both toned down and outer points adjusted to create a "connect the dots" curve.

Hole 15 fairway after edits.  The foreground bunker was extended left and made to look like it is sweeping more down the hillside.  The bunker in the far ground had the squiggly-ness of the low left side both toned down and outer points adjusted to create a "connect the dots" curve.

It should be said that ProGolf Brasil, the contractor at Boa Vista, shaper Jeff Stein, and lead architect from APDC Thad Layton did a nice job of  building "good bones," or pretty nice starting shapes in the bunkers, and this made my job imminently easier.  

With the bunkers that had already been grassed, they were all mostly in good shape with really nice movement in the edge lines.  With some tamping with the back of a rake, some sharpening of corners with a flat shovel, and some textural "roughing up" of the edges with the same shovel, the bunkers began to take on a much more natural and aged look.  Nowhere was this more evident than on bunkers where the protective plastic liner had just been pulled.  

Hole 8 green side just after the plastic storm erosion liner had been pulled.

Hole 8 green side just after the plastic storm erosion liner had been pulled.

Hole 8 green side after finishing the edge.  A corner of the back bunker was also cut up higher to make it visible from the approach; before it was totally blind.

Hole 8 green side after finishing the edge.  A corner of the back bunker was also cut up higher to make it visible from the approach; before it was totally blind.

Hole 8 fairway bunker just after liner pulled and before any work done to it.

Hole 8 fairway bunker just after liner pulled and before any work done to it.

Hole 8 fairway bunker after edits.  Besides the textural improvements, a high point in the left center was detected and enhanced.  This move, along with heavily tamping down the right side, now gives a slight overall tilt to the bunker, whereas before it had a bit of a flat line on top.  It now has a more pleasing look and fits in better with the rest of the bunkers on the course.

Hole 8 fairway bunker after edits.  Besides the textural improvements, a high point in the left center was detected and enhanced.  This move, along with heavily tamping down the right side, now gives a slight overall tilt to the bunker, whereas before it had a bit of a flat line on top.  It now has a more pleasing look and fits in better with the rest of the bunkers on the course.

The protective lining of the bunker edges was something new to me that I had not seen before.  While cumbersome to move and adjust to the bunkers that were still in the dirt, there were some real benefits to them.  For one, they did seem to hold the edges fairly well.  They also provided some irregular movement to the lines as material outside would bow out the liner in between stakes toward the center.  Further yet, the lack of compaction from the sand cap at the edge left it soft and provided flexibility to tamp it and roll it down as much as desired.  All of these factors aided in being able to easily come up with the rugged texture and style seen above.  I would consider utilizing this method again in the future.

A good number of the other bunkers had had the liner removed for some time.  The program was still largely the same, though from growth and/or settling of the sand cap, the before and after comparisons are not as drastic.

This nasty little green side bunker on 7 had a very symmetrical look from further back in the fairway.  The goal was to get away from that symmetry.

This nasty little green side bunker on 7 had a very symmetrical look from further back in the fairway.  The goal was to get away from that symmetry.

Making the nose stick out a little more and flaring up the right side helps alleviate some of the symmetry.

Making the nose stick out a little more and flaring up the right side helps alleviate some of the symmetry.

This bunker guarding the second shot on 5 might have been the most "  municipal" of all bunkers in that it felt both really simple and not fitting with the land.

This bunker guarding the second shot on 5 might have been the most "municipal" of all bunkers in that it felt both really simple and not fitting with the land.

After image of the same bunker, now fitting in better with the style of the rest of the course.

After image of the same bunker, now fitting in better with the style of the rest of the course.

Hole 5 provided some of the biggest challenges, mainly with the front two bunkers, which were much more rounded and flat in the foreground.  They did not really fit in with the rest of the course or the hole itself.  After mental wrestling trying to come up with an easy solution, there was no other choice but to add some sod to the high sides and recontour some of the foreground.  

In addition to the roundness of the first two bunkers, the two bunkers from this back tee are much too similar in size.

In addition to the roundness of the first two bunkers, the two bunkers from this back tee are much too similar in size.

Corner flares, a sod tongue, and foreground contouring were all added to the two front bunkers in attempt to get them more in character with the rest of the course.  The front left fairway bunker was edged to better reveal the flare up on the left and open up the front right; it now feels larger than the second bunker on the left.  Lastly, the first tongue on the left in the big bunker was cut back to differentiate it from the others.

Corner flares, a sod tongue, and foreground contouring were all added to the two front bunkers in attempt to get them more in character with the rest of the course.  The front left fairway bunker was edged to better reveal the flare up on the left and open up the front right; it now feels larger than the second bunker on the left.  Lastly, the first tongue on the left in the big bunker was cut back to differentiate it from the others.

I would not call it perfect now, but it is an improvement.  What you aren't going to improve much though is the strategic location and sizing of all the bunkers, which is really the most important thing anyway.  This hole, along with the other par fives at Boa Vista, features bunkers that both make you think and challenge you on all shots--a hard thing to pull off on a par 5.  Thad Layton and Arnold Palmer Design Company are doing great work and moving the company in the right direction.  It was really enjoyable for me to work with them and help contribute to what should be a very fun golf course.

I would like to thank ProGolf Brasil as well for being very easy to work with.  When I needed tools or labor, I got them.  Whenever I wanted to be left alone to think and work, they let me do my thing.  I think that not only helps things get done, it helps them get done well.  I'm a believer that a happy crew or individual leads to better and more creative work.  That is something that Tom Doak's Renaissance team really emphasizes, and it obviously shows in the results there.  ProGolf is just getting started on finishing the Olympic Golf Course in Rio de Janeiro, and look for them to only get better as they work along with Gil Hanse's talented crew.

The 4th at Boa Vista, with one bunker containing test sand.

The 4th at Boa Vista, with one bunker containing test sand.