In his presentation he touched on two key points and both got me thinking about how much bunker maintenance is undermining strategy.
While talking about the techniques they use he said “the player expects the ball roll down the faces of the bunker and end up in the middle.”
Being in this position provides a player with a flat lie with enough room to comfortably get over almost any face even in fairway bunkers. If the ball has rolled to this position the ball will sit almost completely on top of the sand and allow for a cleaner contact than the rough. In fact in many instances this lie will allow the player to control the shot through the additional spin they can place on the ball.
Throw in the improvements in the ball and the use of patterning on the face designed to add spin and the players are in a much better position to score from the bunkers than in the past.
The bunker (in theory) is supposed to be a lost stroke unless an exceptional shot is played to save that stroke. I’m not sure if that is the case anymore. Apparently the average tour player is just shy of 50% around greens for sand saves and the best professionals are close to 60%. That’s not much of hazard when you compare that to rough and even some short grass situations.
The speaker continued with “The players expect every bunker shot to be played from consistent conditions.”
What he might as well of said is the player expects the ball to sit up in a perfect lie every time. We spend an enormous amount of money in construction techniques, in maintenance and on “creating” specialized sand designed to provide the perfect combination of firmness and moisture content. Essentially a lie in a hazard is being designed to be perfect every time.
A bunker is supposed to provide a consequence for making either a poor decision or failing to execute a shot. Strategy is created through the balance of risk and opportunity and the decisions that come with assessing what lies between you and the hole. If there is no consequence there is no risk and therefore the strategies are weakened by this fact. A perfect lie in the bunker every time removes a large portion of the risk.
I think we are maintaining bunkers to the point of reducing their strategic value.