Wednesday, July 12, 2006


The bunker at St. George's

I first fell in love with the bunkers at Pebble Beach - the shots from the sky would leave me gasping at how beautiful they were. Those were the bunkers I first drew as a young teenager. When I was in my 20’s on a golf trip to North Carolina I discovered the more subtle style of Ross and realized that bunkers could be quite simple and elegant, and that placement mattered over aesthetics. This is my point of view starting out working for Doug.

I made a trip to Scotland and England and fell in love with Scottish pot bunkers and the English heather faced bunkers. Sunningdale in particular caught my eye and I first started to imagine the movement and flow in the bunker lines. I still liked the idea of the simple “Americanized” pot style bunkering (Angus Glen South) but curiosity had taken hold. My world was turned upside down with my first visit to California. All those fingers and faces were more beautiful than anything I had ever seen. From the mid 90’s through to recent times I was certain influenced by Mackenzie, Thompson and Thomas more than any other architects. I never fell for Pete Dye or any of the modern looks, I wanted to build high flashed bunkers with noses and capes. I will tell you right now that until I did St. George’s I still hadn’t realized how to build a great bunker. Some of my shapes and lines were nice, but I hadn’t understood enough about the detailing yet to really make them great. I think this is the area that 75% of the architects don’t get – it’s certainly more important than I figured when I first started.

Where I figured it all out was a two step process. The first was I begun to look at the details on bunkers more than I looked at the bunker shapes. Once I noticed how great edges were formed, or how many straight lines there were, I was on the right path. I began to figure out the effect of sand splash so I could emulate it. I looked at squares, corners and boxy features to realize that roundness of any sort was a problem. I also sucked it up and admitted to myself that I was playing it too safe. I had to be more aggressive with scale and had to show less fear by building more controversial bunkering. It was the leap I had to make.

The bunkering at weston

The second stage began with St. George’s and finished with Weston. I ended my efforts of working with bulldozers and began insisting on much more agile machinery. I also went from the observer role to getting in the bunker with the crew. I tried to go from the point and direct guy to getting in the middle of the mud. I also experimented and eventually worked with topsoil bags to create a lip that wouldn’t erode or dry out at St. George’s. We had decided on establishing a dramatic bull nose to create amazing shadows, a bunker that didn’t need edging and a bunker that created a historic look. It certainly worked wonderfully.

Where I finally hit full stride was when I got into hand edging all the bunker lines myself at Weston so that I had more control over the look. I loved the opportunity to shape, reflect, adjust, look and touch up until I had a bunker lines that I felt was alive. I think Doug thought I was mad, but the results are some of my best. I even went as far as to get each new visitor to paint out lines so that I could avoid that dreaded repetition – I simple fine tuned to make them work. I think that Weston certainly captured the wild movement of the original Hirono (Charles Alison) bunkers and it remains some of my best work.

I’ve recently spent a lot of time figuring out Doak’s and Coore’s bunkering so that I’m capable of that look too. It certainly is another spectacular technique that offers some interesting advantages on the right site. It was definitely what I wanted to do at Muskoka Bay, but that was not in the cards.

I honestly think there isn’t a bunker that I can’t build. The tough part will be the selection of which type. I know one thing my first new course will have amazing bunkers.