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Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Arnie's Been Tinkering at Bay Hill

According to this article at USA Today, Arnie's been working overtime, getting the Champion's Course at Bay Hill ready for this week's Arnold Palmer Invitational.

Normally I wouldn't take any time previewing a tournament like this, but we've been talking about sand play over the last week... and apparently Arnie decided the bunkers needed work. A lot of work. The article's author, Steve DiMeglio, writes:
The biggest change involved adding, removing and repositioning the course's bunkers. And Palmer had the faces of the bunkers reworked and pulled to the tops of mounds. Rookie Rickie Fowler, who won the 2006 HP Boys Junior Championship at Bay Hill in 2006, said all the bunkers can now be seen and will change angles of tee shots.

"The bunkers look awesome," said Fowler, who has won $889,471 in eight events to rank 18th this season. "They are a little bit more visible to the eye."
There are other changes as well, such as shaved run-off areas and a return to a par of 72. But DiMeglio says this is the most extensive renovation in the course's history and that the players will be playing a course they have never seen before.

And that's why I'm devoting a little space to Arnie's tourney. There's a good chance we can all learn a little about sand play this week. (Besides, maybe Tiger can ignore Arnie's tournament, but I won't. I'd love to play in it. Are you listening, Arnie?)


  1. I would love to see Arnie rake the bunkers like Jack did at the Memorial from 2006-2008 with the furrowed style rake. Jack felt sand bunkers should not be aimed at to avoid high rough around the green. Tour players score better with the immaculately manicured sand hazards versus 3-4 inches of rough.

    For those three years, there was little statistical difference in sand saves. But, the course played too hard, the players complained and Jack acquiesced.

    How about if they did not tend the bunkers at all?

  2. I don't know what they should do, Vince. I liked what Jack did, but it didn't seem to me that the players had any real trouble with the furrows, no matter how much they complained.

    Personally, I've wondered about just eliminating the loose impediment rule; if it's in the bunker, you have to deal with it. Then, before playing a shot that might end up in the bunker, players would have to consider the possibility of getting a bad break. (In fact, designers could add a little bit of gravel to the sand, just to make the lies less predictable.)

    If the powers-that-be want to make accuracy more important, I think that might have an effect.

  3. I am so committed to learning how to handle bunkers at least in a rudimentary way. It's really the worst part of my game. And there are a lot of bad parts. :o0

  4. Don't you think it's kind of funny, Patricia? The pros and their teachers are always saying bunkers are the easiest part of the game, and yet it's the one that gives us weekend players the worst trouble... go figure. 8-\

  5. The pros and their teachers are always saying bunkers are the easiest part of the game

    The pros and their teachers spend countless hours learning how to hit out of bunkers then practicing that skill. The only practice bunker I can find has sand as fluffy as a sidewalk.

  6. Exactly. The pros live in sand and we don't, so it's never gonna be that easy for us.

    If the bunker is hard, forget all that "skimming under the surface" advice; you want to play it more like a pitch from the grass. If hitting the ball first doesn't work (and if the sand is hard enough, it will) then hit just behind the ball -- no more than an inch, if that much -- and use a club without much bounce.

    BTW, did you try the 9-iron trick? A PW might work too, simply because neither has much bounce. Open the face a little and make a long slow swing like in the Steve, Ernie, and Luke videos; that makes it easier to control how far behind the ball you hit.

    General rule of thumb: The harder the sand, the more you play the shot like a regular chip or pitch. As the sand gets softer, you move your "contact point" farther away from the ball... or to put it another way, the softer the sand, the "fatter" you hit the shot.