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Choosing Sand for Your Bunkers

Monday, October 24, 2016

Choosing the right sand for a golf course is serious business. The sand chosen for bunkers can impact playing quality and maintenance, as well as the style of construction and architecture of the course.  There are many factors that need to be considered when choosing the perfect sand, and each component can have a major impact on the overall effect.  When choosing bunker sand, it is important to take into account:


  • Particle Size. The particle size of bunker sand should fall between .25 and 1 mm. Silt and clay particles that are smaller than .05 mm should be kept at a minimum because they can cause surface crusting.  Remember to take into consideration the sand used in the rootzone of bunkers near the greens.  Sand from the bunker will get kicked up onto the green.  If the sand is finer than that used in the rootzone, it may cause drainage problems.  Extra aeration should be completed if the bunker sand is finer than the rootzone sand.  Sand that is too coarse—over 2 mm—should also be avoided since it can cause damage to mowing equipment.  

  • Particle Shape and Penetrometer Value. Shape is determined by its angularity and sphericity—in other words, how sharp and round it is.  Sand particles can range from being very angular, with many sharp edges to well rounded, with a smooth surface, and/or have low sphericity, with an oblong shape to high sphericity, with a more circular shape.  Low sphericity, highly angular sand is more resistant to compression resulting in less fried-egg lies where the golf ball is compressed into the sand, making it difficult to hit.  This shape of sand has the added benefit of staying in place better; however, it also makes for firm bunkers which some players do not like.  On the other hand, smooth, spherical pieces of sand produce fried-egg lies and may move out of place during maintenance and rainfall. Most sand consists of a variety of shapes, which is beneficial because more uniform sand tends to be less stable.  A penetrometer can be used to measure the sand’s resistance to compression in order to determine the likelihood of a fried-egg lie.  

  • Crusting Potential. The formation of a stiff, dry surface on the bunker is called crusting.  Sand with a high amount of silt and clay are more likely to crust.  Crusting affects the playability of the bunker and requires more maintenance in the form of raking.  A laboratory can test for crusting potential by getting the sand wet and seeing if a layer of crust forms.  

  • Chemical Reaction (pH) and Hardness. Sand with a higher pH is more resistant to weathering.  Additionally, soft sand is easier to break down, which may result in drainage problems.  Though not as important factors as size and shape, the pH and hardness should be taken into consideration.  

  • Infiltration Rate. Infiltration rate refers to how well the sand drains.  Bunker sand should drain at a minimum of 20 inches per hour.  Initially bunkers should drain very well since they are made of sand, but over time, as they get contaminated by nearby soil and by rainfall, their infiltration rate slows.  Installing a new drainage pipe may help, but complete sand replacement may be the only solution.  

  • Color. Many times sand color plays an important role in what sand is chosen because the color affects the overall appearance of the course.  Light sand is often used since it complements the green grass of the course.  When bunker sand is replaced to account for erosion, it is important to match the former sand color, otherwise it may take a long time for raking to blend the colors.  

  • Overall Playing Quality. Ideally, the goal is to choose sand that is great for playing quality; however, this is a highly subjective measure.  What one person feels is great playing quality may differ from another person.  Across the board, most people believe that bunker sand should be consistent throughout the course.  For this reason, if sand is replaced in one bunker, sand should be replaced throughout the entire course.  While the size and shape of sand affect the playing quality, so do the raking frequency, raking method, irrigation, depth and age of the bunker.  More frequent raking will prevent crusting, resulting in improved playing quality.  

When these factors are taken into consideration, you can find the perfect bunker sand to complete your course.  At Shoreline, we provide bunker sand that meets USGA guidelines.  You can feel confident that when you buy bunker sand from Shoreline, you are getting a high quality product that is great for golf.  Call today to order your bunker sand or order bunker sand for sale online today.