One of the traits of Scottish golf is that the courses play firm and fast, even in damp or wet conditions. That was the goal of the Scotsdale Golf Course and the Champion bermuda grass greens will add to and enhance that characteristic. Many times you may not want to “go for the pin” on your approach shot, rather aim a little left or right or even short and run the ball toward the hole. The short, firm grasses of Scottish courses have some of the same similarities of Champion, and the putting surfaces are almost always firm and the ball may bounce a bit more than bentgrass.
As to the bunkers that will be added back, this is also a classic Scottish style or feature. When golf course architect Tom Clark was commissioned to design Scotsdale over 30 years ago, the idea was a Scottish-style, “linksy” course. This was altered a bit when, on the back nine, the course routing was changed because of a land issue, so the front nine holes and holes 16 through 18 meet the criteria, whilst holes 11 through 15 are more parkland style and tough enough without adding back any bunkers.
Sand traps or bunkers definitely will add more of a Scottish flair to the golf course, as bunkers are as much a part of Scottish golf as single malt whisky is to Scotland. The Scots often say “if there is nae wind, there is nae golf, but they could just as easily have said if there are no bunkers, there is no golf!” The first sand traps on the seaside courses where the game got started were caused by wind, erosion, or maybe even sheep trying to find a place to get out of the incessant wind. So those early locations back several hundred years ago were quite random and unplanned. Today much thought goes into bunker placement and that can also be said for the “new” bunkers on Scotsdale. These bunkers need to be visible, playable, strategic without being overly penal and “fair”, even though the word fair doesn’t often fit in the same sentence as golf. All of these new bunkers will be put back into the original locations where bunkers once were as Mr. Clark envisioned, but no traps will be added that are directly in front of any greens or on any fairways.
The method of bunker construction was chosen for several reasons: playability, ease of maintenance, longevity and marketing. From a playability issue, the sand that will be installed will be resistant to plugged and “fried-egg” lies, and the bunker bottoms will be built so that balls that land in the traps will tend to roll away from the lips and bunker faces. This particular sand will also drain better, but not pack too hard, so it will provide more consistency from trap to trap.
The “Billy Bunker” method of bunker lining is being used because it minimizes washouts during rain events, thus decreasing the labor required to get bunkers back into normal playing conditions. Most of the time, no labor will be required as this lining holds the sand in place and only normal raking would be required. This method also decreases contamination and will last for up to 20 years, whereas most bunkers really need to be rebuilt every 5 to 10 years, so it saves money over time, not only in longer life, but also in minimized labor to maintain the bunkers.
Something different will be used on these new bunkers faces in order to minimize maintenance, provide interest and character and create a “buzz” to play Scotsdale. New artificial “stacked sod or revetted” bunker faces will be installed with material supplied by EcoBunker of Great Britain. The stacked sod faces will be almost identical to bunkers at St. Andrews, Carnoustie and many other courses in Scotland. The material being used is similar to artificial turf used in football fields only with shorter dense fibers. There are only a handful of courses in the US with revetted bunkers, and this will definitely be unique to Arkansas. These faces will not be very high, less than 2 feet in most cases, but will be visually stunning, while not being overly difficult, and may even play easier than regular bunkers in that it is almost impossible to have a ball plug in the face. In addition, these artificial faces should last 15 to 20 years or more, thus eliminating the need to be rebuilt every few years. With Scotsdale being the only course in Arkansas and our region to have bunkers like this, interest to play should be very keen. More golfers, more revenue!
Some preliminary work has begun including selective tree work, removal of existing fans and relocating the original green surface edges. All contractors are secured and the course will close on May 16 to begin preparing greens for sprigging of the ultra dwarf Champion Bermuda grass scheduled for June. The projected reopening of the course is early September.