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Mark Bourgeois

Apologies if this has been covered ad nauseum -- blast that search function! -- but what do others think of "eat-in" bunkers, i.e., bunker bays that eat into green surfaces (or appear to)?

I find this MacKenzie form of visual intimidation to be very visually intimidating.  (Is this one of his lessons learned from study of camouflage?) Superior in fact to every form of intimidation, for these bunker bullies don't lead to death by drowning -- the more-commonly used form of visual intimidation!

The beauty of the tactic is when you combine it with enormous greens, because carnivorous bays:
1. Reduce the size of the target without reducing pinnable area.  You can stick a flag behind one of these bunkers and dare the golfer to take a huge risk, or play it safe by hitting away from the flag.  This challenges the expert golfer who wishes to go at the flag tucked near or behind a bunker, while still providing plenty of room for the chop to play away from the flag yet still hit the green.
2. Reduce the apparent size of the target, creating a form of terror from which the golfer nevertheless can recover (unlike water).
3. Provide for enormous variety of challenge from day to day.
4. Dish out punishment in proportion to the miss.  As bad as a ball in the bunker is, a ball on the other side of the bunker is even worse!

Upon closer inspection, small collars do appear between green proper and bunker; however, the visual intimidation remains plus the bunkers very much are in play.

Why are so many bunkers elsewhere "offset" from the green? On links it's true that offset bunkers may draw in shots; however, they are offset.

I realize these types of bunkers may be more expensive than other types!  Still, the cape-and-bay style is not rare -- why don't we see them eat right into the greens?!

Is there something wrong with eat-in bays? Do clients hate it? Does it take some kind of special talent to build?

Why don't we see more big greens that use carnivorous bays to increase visual intimidation and make the greens play smaller for the expert golfer who would take on the challenge?

And lastly, can anyone post examples of this from other architects?

Green looks small from tee -- cue theme from "Jaws"...

...but appears much larger when you get on top of the thing: green is 35 yards deep by 20 yards wide (from bunker to bunker), roughly 6,500 square feet for a hole 175 yards in length

« Last Edit: December 12, 2008, 01:40:47 PM by Mark Bourgeois »

David Stamm

  • Karma: +0/-0
Mark, to those that know me it should come as no surprise that I love how Mackenzie did this type of bunker. I 100% agree that it challenges the golfer while not having to reduce the size of the green, and as you said, while at the same time not losing a multitude of pin positions. This of course allows the green to be larger and allow more interest to built into it and challenge the golfer that bails out and chooses to not challenge a tight pin. I wish this was used more often today. And not to mention the fact that IMHO, it looks great.
"The object of golf architecture is to give an intelligent purpose to the striking of a golf ball."- Max Behr

cary lichtenstein

  • Karma: +0/-0

It's not only his bunkers, but his bunkers combined with his enormous undunlated multilevel greens. I saw a group on 7 this year preacticing bunker shots from the front right and back right bunkers to a middle lefr front pin placement.

I maybe watched for 15 minutes. eacj hit about a dozen shots beofre the figured out where and how to hit the shot close, ditto on pitch shots into 13 and 15 and sand hots on 18.

The practice round was more telling than the actual tournament and gives you a tremoundous prespective in the course design.

I also spent an hour behind the 6th green. The pin was in the back right pposition and the only way to get it c;ose was to hit it on the slope to the right of the green and let it kill the ball and roll unto the green. You had about a 3 foot Target.

In all, I saw a couple of dozen tee shots hit within 3 feet of the pin and I saw more 4's and 5's than 2's or 3's. The chip back was terrifying, not to me know doesn't know from it, but from the pro's who time after time left the chip shot of the green, only to have to chip a 2nd time.

I had a change to play Augusta a couple of times a few weeks before and without a doubt, I came away saying it is the finest examination of a players shots game from bunkers, chipping and putting of any course I have played.

I chipped, pitched, and hit my sand shots excellent for 2 days, but still had a 4 putt each day.

I watched 3 players on 15 on the 1st day of the tournament all lay up to with 15 feet of each other in 2. The first 2 hit within 9 feet of the pin and the 3rd spu it off back into the water.

The group made 4/6/8 and whew, what does that tell you about 3 world class players. The many downhill lies pitching into 13 and 15 and others are tough and no one practices those.

I watched sand shots out of the 10th right side bunker and the best you can make out of that is 5.

Really a great set of greens, bunkers and amazing course knowledge combined with talent to play well on that course.
Live Jupiter, Fl, was  4 handicap, played top 100 US, top 75 World. Great memories, no longer play, 4 back surgeries. I don't miss a lot of things about golf, life is simpler with out it. I miss my 60 degree wedge shots, don't miss nasty weather, icing, back spasms. Last course I played was Augusta



Those are some fine observtions on your part and well articulated.

Why it's not been seen more is a very worthwhile question. It may seem like a simplistic answer but I have a feeling it may have a lot more to do with the difficulty of maintenance practices, particularly mowing than most of us realize.

Bob Crosby and I spent the day at the USGA yesterday and at one point we saw some really wonderful old photos in the photo archive of courses and some of Cypress Point that showed bunkers like this the way they were originally.

There's no question in my mind that to mow and particularly to turn mowers around those greens and greenside bunkers when they were maintained like that must have been a real headache.

paul cowley

  • Karma: +0/-0
Tom...I agree they must be a headache and lacking a photo archive my gut feeling is that their current maintenance practice is far from their original.

If I look at some of his bunker complexes too long I can get sort of weirded out.....the same thing can happen to me on the tee of certain Fazio holes.....I have to blink and look away because if I focus too much I almost start to get dizzy.

Its almost like some kind of horizontal vertigo......if there is such a thing.
« Last Edit: May 12, 2007, 07:34:20 AM by paul cowley »
paul course architect/asgca



I've got to tell you something. With Ran Morrissett's proposed new upgrade of the website I'm going to recommend that all your posts get collected together into an anthology (eventually they'll need to be hardbound with a gold leaf cover) and put on the menu to the left. They are unbelievable, individually and collectively, alternately funny, poignant, sometimes hysterically funny, but often most thought provoking indeed.

You get weirded out by looking at real MacKenzie bunkers and you get horizontal vertigo from looking at a Fazio hole, do you? OK, I think I understand. If and when I see you tee it up on a Fazio par 3 and for some reason begin to tilt to about a 45 degree angle before hitting the ball then I'll completely understand, particuarly if I'm absolutely certain that flask ain't less than about ha, ha, haalf f, fff, fuull in yo pocketa.

« Last Edit: May 12, 2007, 07:35:25 AM by TEPaul »

paul cowley

  • Karma: +0/-0
Tom, let me say that if you and Ran do get together and put me on the Menu, then make sure its titled 'Post Cards From the Fringe'....because they are generally light weight and don't need extra postage ;).

Hey, Tues Philly airport, have car, 1PM on site with the State. Push dirt Wed. Flask required. Stop.
paul course architect/asgca

Mark Bourgeois

Paul C,

Checked the club history and judging as best I can from photos this maintenance style appears to go back at least as far as 1941.

Nice to hear that if they don't intimidate you visually, at least they do something to you visually.

Does fazio do eat in bunkers? In my experience while he does cape and bay bunkers there is more of an offset.

Tom Paul, nice try but I think Vol 1 from the archives will be "Uncle in the Attic: brilliant musings from
 golf's greatest eccentric".



"....because they are generally light weight and don't need extra postage. :)

That remark reminds me of the comment my old friend Mike Nilon made when the board proposed putting a $7 million dollar new clubhouse on his former club's course. He said that was no different than putting $7 in stamps on a postcard.

"Tom Paul, nice try but I think Vol 1 from the archives will be "Uncle in the Attic: brilliant musings from
golf's greatest eccentric"."


If some of us on here start going into competition with each other to be the greatest eccentric there is in golf or golf architecture no doubt whatsoever but that Ran Morrissett will need to seriously upgrade this website.

« Last Edit: May 12, 2007, 08:07:17 AM by TEPaul »

paul cowley

  • Karma: +0/-0 Fazio....thats why I said certain Fazio holes from the tee, and only on ones with a plethora of bunkers....because from there you can get a similar effect ....a spatial overlapping that can confuse the eye.
« Last Edit: May 12, 2007, 08:12:13 AM by paul cowley »
paul course architect/asgca

Mark Bourgeois

One could argue that an interest in golf architecture, devoid of a financial interest, automatically qualifies a person as eccentric.

Mark Bourgeois


Off the top of your head, can you think of other examples of eat-in bunkers?

And is there a way to reduce maintenance costs for this technique?

In addition to providing interesting hole locations and visual intimidation, I think close-in bunkers reflect a Mac belief that the player who hits it too wide should face a harder shot than one who misses it a little. The visual intimidation of having one of these sight-blocking bunkers between the green and you is indeed frightening.

Whaddya think of that? It certainly sounds "fair"!


  • Karma: +1/-1
Mark B:

Thanks for your observation, I have never thought of MacKenzie bunkers in quite that way before.

I have done bunkers in that style on occasion, though not as often as MacKenzie did them.  (Lost Dunes probably has the most.)  The only problem I can see with them is that the sand exploded from the bunkers builds up on the green over time and raises the lips and messes with the internal contouring.  That's less of a problem if the bunkers are really deep [because less sand escapes], but not many courses give you the climate and the scale to build bunkers as deep as Royal Melbourne's.

Still, I'm out to try them more often now.  If you notice a difference between the back nine at Wicked Pony and the front nine (which is already complete), you can give yourself credit for having an impact.


"One could argue that an interest in golf architecture, devoid of a financial interest, automatically qualifies a person as eccentric."

I'm not going to agree with that but I'm definitely not going to argue with it either particularly since some of the greatest and most enduring golf architecture ever done was done by men who had absolutely no financial interest in what they produced.

Those are facts and I think anyone would have a hard time denying them. But what they produced and that they had no financial interest in it is perhaps just one side of the coin.

The other side of the coin is---were they eccentrics?

That's an interesting question to consider.

There does happen to be a tertiary factor---eg there seems to have been something of an inordinate amount of tragedy connected to those particular men. I'm not sure if that's just coincidental or if there may be something there to seriously consider.


You know MarkB, you really have hit on something very interesting here, even if the general subject has been discussed on here before.

The difference seems more in the particular slant you put on the subject in your initial post.

Obviously the "playability" of bunkers that are designed and maintained that way is one thing.

Another thing is the unusual "visuals" they create.

A third thing that I've thought of for years now is the basic "artistic" aesthetic of bunkers like that.

In a phrase, I've just never really known what to make of them. To me it's something of an artistic conundrum in golf architecture.

I admit, Mackenzie bunkers of that style and ilk are perhaps some of the most dramatically "artistic" bunkers ever done in the history of golf architecture. Their sharp curvilinear top lines and how they starkly and dramatically twist and turn with and against the lines of other architectural elements as well as with other natural top lines of holes and sites is pretty stunning to see. In a sense it is sort of what Olmsted said should be the ultimate evocation of great landscape architecture---eg that it should evoke "quiet" contemplation and never an audible response from the observer.

In just the realm of sand bunkers on golf courses in a truly natural sense those sharp top lines should probably not be the sod and grass but should be the actual top sand line simply because that really is the way of Nature itself in how her forces work on those materials.

If one looks at natural dunescapes you can see that remarkable sharp curvilinear top line but it is always sand (in wind if the sand is fine and light you can even see Nature's own architectural formulae of weight and wind forming it) but it is never that way in natural dunescapes with vegetation (sod and grass top lines)---even though Nature's forces can and does bend trees and such in interesting ways but even that is never sharp-lined.

In this way the question of the artist's mission or even calling is sort of brought forth. The basic classroom question for the artist and his creations, particularly in golf architecture where the artist's medium is the earth, is if what he does should be a representation or an interpretation?

That important artistic question is nowhere more starkly presented than in some of Mackenzie's best bunkers, and for me, I may never really come to a conclusion or even an opinion about them. Maybe it's just better if it and they remain a conundrum.  ;)
« Last Edit: May 12, 2007, 09:18:36 AM by TEPaul »

paul cowley

  • Karma: +0/-0
I agree with TomP as per conundrum.

I'll add a few more;

I don't feel that camouflage is at all concerned with visual fact it is quite the opposite. Its really more about creating patterns and forms to aid in concealment. Mackenzies bunkering rarely conceals itself.

Along the same vein, Alister states... "In discussing the need for simplicity of design, the chief object of every golf course architect worth his salt is to imitate the beauties of nature so closely as to make his work indistinguishable from nature itself."  -- Alister Mackenzie, Golf Architecture
Once again, I have a hard time making my eye think that some of his complexes are at all indistinguishable from nature.
Some of his seem to border on Dr Suess like landscapes....something he shares at times with another great designer....Pete Dye.

« Last Edit: May 12, 2007, 09:41:11 AM by paul cowley »
paul course architect/asgca

paul cowley

  • Karma: +0/-0
I also might add that when TomP was recently visiting a course we are building, he commented that the bunkering was very 'Mackenzieish'....and I guess he is right a bit ....some of the faces are eating up the slopes , especially on the plateau type greens.....but the mimicry was not really intentional....just trying to create interest with a pile of dirt.

I also like that funky little linear mounded cross bunker in the forth picture of this thread.
Now that little thingy is something I will use intentionally in the future...maybe as part of a buried fieldstone wall that strategically crosses a fairway.
Hell, maybe it might even be a part of an entire complex of buried walls.....maybe even combined with buried debris piles!

Wow....maybe even someplace in Maryland.

I have to stop now......I am getting far too excited. :)
« Last Edit: May 12, 2007, 09:39:11 AM by paul cowley »
paul course architect/asgca

Craig Disher

  • Karma: +0/-0
I think placing bunkers so close to greens - to the point that there was almost no fringe -  was common in Mac's time. But perhaps Mac did it best. Wayne Morrison has some early photos of the Cascades that have the same kind of intimidation - although Flynn's bunkers there are not as randomly convoluted or visually complex as the ones you show.  We may have to wait for the book to see them - unless Wayne wants to post them now (I will if it's ok with you, Wayne).

Aerials from the 30s have many examples of architects placing greenside bunkers almost flush against the putting surface. I'll look for some to post.

Maintenance must be the reason that they went out of favor. I can't think of how Royal Melbourne maintains those - except maybe with scissors.


Craig, please do post the photos of Cascades as that will illustrate the point quite well.  

By the way, are you working with Bobsy Crosby on the finishing touches on the CC York chapter?  It is critical that you do so, as this may be the single most important chapter in the whole book!  If you are dragging your feet, you are not allowed to set foot in Ardmore until you do  ;)

Mark Bourgeois

Tom Paul,

I will side more on the side of architecture than landscape on this one.

These stark top lines are beautiful but rather than simply imitate the top line of a dune (excellent observation! I never thought of that), I think the form directly follows from its function.

That function is to present visual intimidation. These beautiful, starkly-defined curvilinear bunker edges don't simply hide the green but make the shot more intimidating in that they present the golfer a clear margin between success and failure, with no apparent "buffer of mediocrity."

There are many who have worked this profession who were of high intelligence but I think things like this point to the possibility MacKenzie was a genuine genius(overused term that unfortunately devalues its power): in his use of bunkers this way he managed to find a way to use bunkers to recreate the visual challenge most of us associate only with water (a clean, bright line demarcating success and failure, with no buffer between), and yet by working in the medium of sand rather than water, managed to present the intimidation of "death" yet offer a reasonable possibility for recovery and "redemption."

In other words, in these sharp-edged, eat-in capes he found a way to adapt the function of water to the form of!

Also of interest is how the angle of approach affects the nature of the intimidation.  Obviously, you can avoid it if these eat-in capes AE not on your direct line. But when they are on your line they provide visual intimidation close up as well as far away. They're like "fractals" in that regard.

Secondly, Tom Paul, regarding tragedies there was a famous study of British PMs that found a disproportionate number relative to the general population suffered the death of a parent, usually a father I believe, in childhood.
Tom Doak, thanks for the compliment!


Mark Bourgeois

Paul C,

That thing is a trench like terror! I half expected to see pipes and rifles and sh*t sticking all out of it!

This is the 15th on the West course; there may be more pics on the website.

Another hole that has one of these garbage cross hazards is on woodhall spa. I forget the hole but it's the one that plays to the ruin. Maybe the 8th?



"I'll add a few more;
I don't feel that camouflage is at all concerned with visual fact it is quite the opposite. Its really more about creating patterns and forms to aid in concealment. Mackenzies bunkering rarely conceals itself."


You know even though this site seems to have been over Mackenzie's observations on Boer military trench camouflage and how he applied it to golf architecture many times there always seems to be a thing or two missing about how he really did apply it to golf course architecture.

On this subject of course Tom Doak should weigh in as I surely do know he understands all that Mackenzie observed that way in the Boer War and in all the ways he may've applied it to architecture.

Some seem to think Mackenzie actually tried to disguise or conceal his bunkers from the golfer. He did nothing of the kind even though if a golfer turned around and looked back at a Mackenzie hole he'd just played those bunkers that were so visible in the playing of the hole were deceptively gone from visibility.

The only way he applied camouflage techniques to his visible bunkering was in how he "tied them in" to surrounding grades so that it did not look much like they were constructed, not that they weren't visible.

But strategically Mackenzie's architectural style has always been labeled as the ultimate in "looks hard, plays easier".

That theme, in my opinion, is how he really applied the concept of his observations on Boer military trenching to golf course architecture.

Most understand that the Boers constructed military trenches that were so naturally designed and constructed that the British did not even realize they were there.

But obviously the Boers were smart enough to realize that that was certainly not all they should do with military trenching because if the British couldn't figure out where those camouflaged Boer trenches were then they wouldn't know where to fire and they probably wouldn't fire.

And so the Boers also constructed military trenches that were a complete immitation of British military trenches---eg very engineered and man-made looking and visible and obvious.

Those were the Boer dumby trenches and the Boers obviously never manned them. All they were there for was to draw British fire away from where the Boer's really were--in their totally naturally concealed and camouflaged trenches.

I don't know enough about Mackenzie's courses and their conceptual strategic workups to know if Mackenzie purposely tried to draw golfers into taking a risk at his bunkers for a reward when in fact there was no strategic reward there---where the real reward was totally concealed by no visible evidence of any RISK whatsoever. (in a way he did that on CPC 6th hole even though the deception did not involve bunkering).

If he actually did use the latter Boer technique architecturally in golf of drawing enemy fire on highly visible dumby trenches by seducing golfers to risk dealing with a bunker for no reward, then he did in fact use that last deceptive technique of the Boer immitation British trenches that were dumbies.

I do however, know that William Flynn used this deceptive technique of deceiving golfers into taking a risk at bunkering for no strategic reward a lot more than just infrequently. His "reverse" dogleg concept of which he did quite a few is a perfect example of this which would be the application of the Boer dumby trench concept of drawing fire with no beneficial result.

« Last Edit: May 12, 2007, 10:19:02 AM by TEPaul »


"That function is to present visual intimidation. These beautiful, starkly-defined curvilinear bunker edges don't simply hide the green but make the shot more intimidating in that they present the golfer a clear margin between success and failure, with no apparent "buffer of mediocrity."


That's true, but we all know how that works visually and how it works in play. That's the same playability and visual function of the starker more man-made appearing styles and lines of Dye's architecture, or Macdonald/Raynor's architecture, or even the starkest and sharpest of them all---Desmond Muirhead's architecture of the type of the ultra radical Stone Harbor CC.

Any golfer can see that that type and style has visuals and playablilty on which "margins for error" are ultra razor thin.

I don't have any problem per se with that presentation or offering in golf and architecture except that it almost always tends heavily towards the man-made looking and tilts pretty far from the natural look in golf architecture.

Dye's 17th hole's island green's railroad ties right up against the green sides creates as much of a razor thin margin for error as does Mackenzie's sharp top-lined bunkers in photos above that appear to eat in green space.

Mark Bourgeois

The "maintenance cost" explanation doesn't make complete sense to me: why in an era of escalating maintenance costs would courses decide to spend less?

The irony is that this is an element of maintenance which actually isn't aesthetics but can affect play very significantly.

No, I'm more inclined to believe the tactic fell foul of some misplaced belief in fairness. Thus the creation of buffers of mediocrity between bunker and green: if you missed the green a little you shouldn't face a stark penalty, and if you missed them a lot you shouldn't face a(nother) harsh, exacting shot.

Craig, looking forward to the pics - oh, on complexity, I believe a number of these capes actually were introduced subsequent to the design so as to offer entryways for golfers.


EDIT: I'd forgotten Tom Doak's comment about sand on greens. That's a very good point; for example, the 7th hole on RM West some years back was found to have risen by *several* feet due to this as well as topdressing, etc.
« Last Edit: May 12, 2007, 10:53:48 AM by Mark Bourgeois »

paul cowley

  • Karma: +0/-0
Tom you're right ....and I need to do more homework.

My own ignorance is not always bliss. :)
paul course architect/asgca


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