Amata Spring Country Club near Bangkok, Thailand, has completed bunker work on the front nine.
The aim of the project is to restore bunkers close to their original design while making them “almost maintenance free” for the next 25 years and beyond. The club is working with Sports Turf Solutions (STS) to install Sandtrapper liner and EcoBunker sod walls.
“We decided to return to the original bunker sizes from construction, as they had changed shape over the course of 15 years of maintenance,” said Mike Mckenna, golf course superintendent at Amata Spring. “Once this parameter was established, we decided to do the project in three different phases. This year we have finished the front nine greenside bunkers, next year we will construct the back nine greenside bunkers and start the fairway bunkers in 2022.”
The course was originally designed by Schmidt Curley Design and built by Flagstick Golf Course Construction in 2005.
“During the wet season in Thailand we have heavy rains that wash out bunkers on a weekly basis,” said Mckenna. “Over the years this has caused contamination with the subgrade, soil and stone mixing with the bunker sand and causing consistency issues. Not to mention the labour hours it takes to push the sand back up, calculated at around 480 hours after a heavy storm!
“So, we looked at options to fix two issues, stop the contamination, reduce labour hours in repairs and maintenance. EcoBunker was a product I had seen in the past and was interested to see how it was being received from the courses that had used it. Coming from the north of England and working in Scotland, the aesthetic look of the product certainly appealed to me for sure.
“After asking peers about their experience with the EcoBunker, we decided to do a trial with STS at our worst bunker for washouts,” continued Mckenna. “We constructed the greenside bunker with EcoBunker sod and Sandtrapper liner at the eighteenth hole in July 2019. During the heaviest rains of the wet season we had no washouts or contamination at this bunker, and it was then decided to start a full renovation of our bunkers.”
Richard Allen, CEO of EcoBunker, said: “Tropical climates make the maintenance of golf courses, and particularly bunkers, especially challenging. The EcoBunker Advanced method has proved itself in this climatic region time after time. For example, when Typhoon Mangkhut, equivalent to a Category 5 hurricane ripped through Hong Kong in 2018, there were quite a few EcoBunkers standing in its path. All of them were undamaged, and we know that the bunker edging system, which we have independently developed, is the only one that can consistently and reliably resist these extreme weather events.”
Mckenna, along with Brad Burgess of STS, have set out a plan for the renovation of all 116 bunkers.
Bunkers on the front nine have opened for play following the first phase of work. “Members have commented on the sharpness of the edges and how exquisite they now look,” said Mckenna. “Also, the playability of the new bunkers has made a big difference, no washouts and the bunkers maintain sand depth consistency and plugged balls are less of an issue.
“For the maintenance team, the new bunkers have been very well received, the staff can spend more time on other areas now that the washout repairs have become less of an issue. It has also reduced the Flymo work as the edges are easier to maintain.”