Bunkers are an integral part of golf courses and are intended to be challenging. Every golfer knows that they are to be avoided if possible. However, there are many differing opinions on the importance of consistency, playability and overall difficulty of bunkers. Regardless of where you might stand on how penal bunkers should be, one thing we can all agree upon is nobody wants frequent fried-egg lies.
Fried-egg lies generally become more prevalent as a bunker sand dries out. The sand in a bunker behaves like sand at the beach. The firmest sand can be found near the water’s edge where the tide keeps the sand moist. As you move farther away from the ocean, the sand becomes more dry and less stable. This same principle holds true in bunkers. Periodic rain helps to maintain a certain amount of moisture within the sand and allows them to play firmer, thereby reducing deep footprints and fried-egg lies.
During periods of drought, it is common for bunkers to become less firm. Irrigation priority is given to maintaining turf health, and rightfully so. Many courses barely have enough water to keep the primary playing surfaces from dying during periods of extended drought so applying water specifically for bunker playability is wasteful. Still, there are things that can be done to help make your water go farther and improve your bunkers.
Some golf courses have found success incorporating products originally developed for maintaining the infield skin of baseball and softball fields. Infield conditioners, such as In-Flow from Precision Laboratories, can be applied to bunkers to help achieve the desired water retention. The Kittansett Club in Marion, Massachusetts, used this product during a challenging two-month stretch where they received no rainfall. A light layer of In-Flow was applied with a fertilizer spreader on bunker slopes. Any irrigation water that was applied to putting greens and fairways that happened to overspray into the bunkers was preserved, resulting in optimal playing conditions and less instances of the dreaded fried-egg lie.
If you find yourself struggling with soft, dry sand in your bunkers and you have already checked sand depth, consider using an infield conditioner to maintain higher moisture levels for longer.
Northeast Region Agronomists:
Adam Moeller, director, Green Section Education – firstname.lastname@example.org
Darin Bevard, senior director, Championship Agronomy – email@example.com
Elliott L. Dowling, senior consulting agronomist – firstname.lastname@example.org
John Daniels, agronomist – email@example.com
Information on the USGA’s Course Consulting Service
Contact the Green Section Staff