The Battle of the Bunkers Ganton vs Woodhall Spa

the deep bunker guarding the right of the 5th green at Woodhall Spa

In the early days, golf courses had a place where you started, a hole where you finished, bunkers and a burn here or there. Fairways weren’t exactly mown, closely or otherwise. Strategy came from avoiding the bunkers. Leap forward 125 years and the bunkers have lost a lot of their meaning. First, there was the invention of the sand wedge and then from 1950-1985 bunkers became shallower and shallower. They lost their teeth and no longer held terror. When you hear a professional at an US Open screaming for the ball to get into a bunker, you appreciate how far the mighty have fallen.

However, there remain those outposts where bunkers still command respect. Two of the very best examples are to be found at Ganton and Woodhall Spa. The bunkers are deep, numerous, well placed, and varied in their shape and contour. They share the same principle: that to find a bunker is a mistake and will carry a penalty of some sort. There are many bunkers, such as the one to the left of the 4th green at Woodhall Spa, where the player is quite happy just to find the green with his first sand shot and score bogey. How many other courses can say the same?

Woodhall Spa embraces its reputation of having the deepest bunkers in the British Isles and appears hell-bent on maintaining this notoriety. On a recent return visit, one author was somewhat disturbed to find that the course is rebuilding several of its bunker faces with stacked turf. The concern is that these neat, sharp bunkers, while impressive, are out of character when compared to the overall more unkempt look of the course (including other bunkers). Still, the authors look forward to a return trip to this little oasis, in hopes that their fears were unfounded.

Woodhall Spa Bunkers to Note:

Third hole, 415 yards; A long serpentine bunkers guards the left side of the green and encroaches some 30 yards out into the fairway.

steps leading into another deep bunker, this time on the 3rd hole

Fifth hole, 150 yards; One bunker hooks around the front and right side of the green. Two other bunkers guard the left side. Another bunker will gather shots long right. An interesting feature is that the bunkers are not visible from the tee, but after his first round there the player will learn that the narrow green is a virtual island surrounded by bunkers. This knowledge makes the short-iron from the exposed tee the most nervy shot on the course.

more bunkers surrounding the left of the 5th green

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