Getting out of a bunker can be tough. Getting out of a Pete Dye-designed bunker can be downright tricky.
High faces, railroad ties and severe pot bunkers are all signs trouble has been found on a Pete Dye-designed golf course. Golfers can take some solace, though, as escaping Dye’s signature hazards is a simple matter of planning and execution.
It all starts with Dye’s bunker philosophy. When Pete and his wife, Alice, first started building golf courses in the 1960s, they emulated the great Robert Trent Jones’ style of large bunkers set alongside big, sloping greens. But their approach changed after a trip to the home of golf, Scotland, where they were introduced to what they called “powerful visions of golf course design.” Those “powerful visions” would eventually become a golfer’s worst nightmare: pot bunkers.
Ever since, Dye has been designing sand traps that intimidate, but don’t always penalize, players. After all, while his volcano, double-lipped and “what-the-heck-do-you-call-that” bunkers present a plethora of challenges, one common thread should quiet shaky knees: a flat way out.
Dye subscribes to the belief that sand at the bottom of a bunker should be level with a small grass ledge along part of the bank so golfers don’t have to tread through the sand to exit. Even for golfers pinned next to the face of a pot bunker, there is always an escape route; it just might be behind them.
One of the biggest weapons in a golf course designer’s arsenal is inciting fear: fear of hitting it into the water, of a long par 4, or of landing in a deep bunker. Understanding what an architect like Dye is trying to accomplish can quell at least a little fear. For example, golfers teeing it up on the par-4 5th at Pound Ridge Golf Club might not be as intimidated by the 18 bunkers lining the fairway and green knowing that finding one won’t spell the end of the world.
A rule of thumb for any golfer trying to escape a Dye bunker, listen to your flight attendants: “In case of emergency, don’t panic, locate your nearest exit, keeping in mind that it may be behind you.”