Billy Fuller has overseen the completion of a bunker renovation at Gaylord Springs Golf Links in Nashville, Tennessee.
The aim of the project was to improve how bunkers look, play and drain.
“Our bunkers were just a mess,” said Harry Taylor, director of golf at Gaylord Springs. “The bunkers were 30 years old and the drainage and liners were shot. We recently had some severe rain that had caused some damage, so we thought it was a good time to do some serious bunker work.
“We wanted less bunker space but not fewer bunkers. Of course, we also wanted a look that matched the layout of the golf course. We hired Billy to design the look we wanted for our course – he had been to our course before and had good ideas.”
Fuller said: “Many of the bunkers were tucked against mounding with long grass slopes draining into the sand, and numerous bunkers were shaped with 100-foot-plus lengths of sand with three-to-four feet of elevation change from the top of sand area to lower sand areas. These design features created severe erosion within the bunkers during rain events, costing the maintenance staff many man-hours restoring the sand.”
Fuller’s master plan called for a reduction of sand – from 105,000 square feet to around 45,000 – and the installation of a Better Billy Bunker liner system and new sand. The club also installed EcoBunker’s synethetic revetted bunker system on bunkers on the par-three third and thirteenth holes.
Landscapes Unlimited began work in late January and completed the project in early June. The club was able to keep nine holes open for play throughout.
“The new motif offers a Golden Age shape, and those bunkers underneath the long sloping mounds were shifted enough to insert swales between the new bunker forms and the mounds,” said Fuller. “Maintenance requirements post-storm events will easily be 90 per cent less, which means the staff can focus on turf quality instead of a sand hazard.”
“The new drainage and liner system allow our grounds crew to have bunkers ready for play in a few hours instead of several days,” added Taylor. “All the bunkers were either moved or reshaped during this renovation. The stacked sod bunkers have had more compliments than anything we have ever done to this golf course.”
At the short par-four sixteenth, Fuller designed Church Pew-style fairway bunkers. “We wanted to have several holes that golfers would remember when they finish their round,” said Taylor. “The unique bunker designs really make the holes something that would make you want to come back and play again.”
Fuller said: “We were able to eliminate a deteriorated wooden wall [that was five feet high and 160 feet long] by reshaping the greenside bunker and slope right of the sixth green, saving major dollars had we chosen to replace the wall. The scope also included replacing approximately 10,000 square feet of broken concrete cart path.”
David Robinson of Marriott Golf helped manage the project with the club’s golf course superintendent, Chris Young, also assisting Robinson and Fuller.
“Strategically speaking, the course is now much more playable from greenside bunkers,” said Fuller. “Most players would agree one of the most difficult shots in golf is the 30- to 60-yard bunker shot. The previous design had many such shots within green approaches. We also reduced the sand area within fairway bunkers, especially those that tended to only catch out the high handicap players. The bottom line is course conditions will be greatly enhanced, exceptional bunker aesthetics, all while maintaining ample strategic challenge and ultimately a more enjoyable round of golf.”
“If you played our golf course you would never know that we have just had a complete bunker renovation,” said Taylor. “The bunkers are unique, beautiful and function perfectly. This is a compliment to all of the professionals involved in the project. Our bunkers are positioned exactly where we want them to enhance the course without making it unfair for some skill level golfers.
“I just cannot say enough good things about the work Billy put into the designs of our new bunkers. Even though there is less sand on the course, the new bunkers look as they have been here since the course was designed. The size reduction helped us in many ways including speed of play, fewer severe bunker shots for the average golfer, and less labour hours for maintenance.”
As well as the bunker renovation project, the club has also had its practice range levelled and expanded.
“Since 2008 I have seen more clubs willing to spend monies on bunkers than any other key course feature,” said Fuller. “I believe much of this is driven by budget dollar allocation. Many course designs in the 1980s, 1990s and early 2000s included expansive amounts of bunker sand area. Unfortunately, golfer expectations are extremely high for a sand hazard, resulting in high maintenance cost. Many course owners are asking architects to reduce the sand area while maintaining ample strategic challenge. This combined with the enhanced bunker drainage systems is offering significant budget savings while offering more enjoyment to those playing the game.
“Every project depends on a team of professionals to realise maximum success. I was blessed to work with great individuals from Gaylord Springs, Marriott and Landscapes Unlimited. An architect’s work can never realise the full potential without tremendous efforts on the part of every individual. Working with this entire team was an honour and pleasure for me personally. I am extremely grateful for their hard work and dedication. I could not be happier with the final product at Gaylord Springs Golf Links.”