Technology in Golf: Bunkers

Bunkers have a long history in the game of golf. Also known casually as a “trap” (but don’t say that to a Rules official!), bunkers are one of two types of hazard on the green (the other being water hazards). The origin of both the sand bunker and the water hazard come from the Scottish roots of the game, as the early courses were set on links land in coastal areas. The location of these historical courses meant that wind would blow sand into the course, where it would collect in depressions and mound against ridges naturally.


The water hazards on these links lands were formed by rain runoff and rivers flowing towards the sea. While only 17 percent of golf courses in Scotland are true “links” courses, they are some of the oldest courses with the most history.


As more people developed courses for play, these naturally-occurring hazards began to be built into the game in the places where they would not happen on their own, as they change the way that golfers play the game entirely. Today, the Rules of Golf govern the specific rules for how to play balls that fall into a hazard.  


The types of bunkers: Fairway bunkers are traditionally located along the sides of -or in the middle of- the fairway, and are developed with the idea of catching tee shots that go awry. Greenside bunkers are located around the green, and are used to gather the long shots that miss. Waste bunkers are the larger sandy areas that naturally occur on courses that are in the coastal links grounds as described above, and as these are usually not architect-designed to influence play, have a few more allowances for golfers than other types of bunkers. Grass bunkers are not technically bunkers, as they are not a “hazard” in the rules. Grass bunkers are really more akin to a rough.


With the advances in technology and design for balls and clubs that players use, not all fairway bunkers come into play like they used to, and older courses may see hazards failing to present a challenge to lower-handicapped players, and penalizing those players that have a higher handicap. Course management may want to consider updating bunkers to keep games challenging.


Courses with poorly-constructed bunkers can cause many problems for the superintendent as well as the players. Flat bunkers may lack drainage, causing costly maintenance as well as undesirable playing conditions. No one wants to wade into a sand-puddle for their ball.


Flashed bunker faces are steep sand faces that almost look like cliffs, which provide an architectural and aesthetic appeal, but can erode and expose the soil underneath, contaminating the bunker.


Bunker condition is one of the top concerns of club members and players worldwide.


Golf Course Industry online speaks to the number of bunker-reconstruction that has been occurring in the last few years. Often, reconstructing bunkers can be cheaper over time than maintenance and upkeep on courses that have struggling bunkers.


For years bunkers were lined with cloth before being filled with sand, but these textile liners can become exposed with erosion, tear when caught by mechanical rakes, or even be pulled up by animals.


A new technology in bunkers that many are employing, including GreatLife KC, is system of using a layer of pea gravel, which is then sprayed with a polymer and left to cure. Once set, this polymer bonds the gravel/grit together so that it is rigid, but remains permeable to water. Then white sand is installed and compacted over the gravel. With the right sand, this method minimizes or even eliminates sand movement, and erosion leading to sand contamination is minimal, as the gravel stays firmly in place. While this system is more costly than some other alternatives, the longevity and ease of upkeep should pay for itself over time.


For those in charge of maintaining courses, consider if your bunkers meet player requirements for a good game as well as quality requirements to keep your costs at a minimum. Is it time to reconstruct your bunkers?


For those in charge of playing on courses, check out Golf Digest’s article on how the pros make bunkers look so easy, for tips to try out the next time you end up in a hazard yourself!


Technology in Golf: Golf Shoes

Golf is a very old sport. In fact, while the modern sport refined by the Scottish is more than 500 years old, there are references in Dutch literature that seem to be talking about golf as early as the year 1261. More known for tradition than for cutting-edge technological advancements, the picture in your mind’s eye of a “typical golfer” most likely isn’t a young technophile. However, the sport of golf has seen a lot of science and technology infiltrate the game infiltrate the game in the last several decades, making gear, play style, and even courses obsolete. This series, Technology in Golf, looks to the advancements made or still to come in individual areas of the sport, from gear to courses to wearable tech. Stay tuned to for more installments! (See the previous installment, Golf Balls)

Everything about the game of golf has evolved over the years, and golf shoes are no exception. While early golf shoes were not much more than loafers lined with sharp nails, modern shoes are meticulously designed for maximum performance and comfort. Let’s take a look at the path that golf shoes took to get where they are today.

Early Golf Shoes

Golf shoes have been around for at least 150 years. Although we can’t point to a specific invention date, one of the earliest mentions of spiked golf shoes can be seen in an issue of The Golfer’s Manual from 1857. In that issue, golfers were advised to wear shoes lined with sharp nails for proper traction on the golf course. Sadly, these early golf shoes were more dangerous than helpful, with the nails poking through the soles of the shoes and injuring golfers.

Golf shoes with screw-in spikes were made available in 1891. It did solve the problem with foot injuries, but the spikes would tear up golf greens. This didn’t sit well with golf course owners, and the shoes were eventually banned.

Saddle Oxfords

In 1901, Spalding introduced the Saddle Oxford shoe, so named because of the saddle-shaped piece of leather around the laces. These shoes were an instant hit with golfers, and their basic design remains popular today.

A Focus on Comfort

Athletic shoes continued to evolve over the years, with a renewed focus on comfort in the 1980s. Golf shoes became less stiff and more flexible during this time, and they even began to replace the metal spikes that lined the bottom with plastic spikes. Not only were these safer and more comfortable, but they were less likely to tear apart greens.

Spikeless Golf Shoes

In 2010, Fred Couples started a trend in golf shoes when he showed up for the first round of the 2010 Master’s with spikeless golf shoes. These shoes had dimpled rubber outsoles that provided all the traction necessary for a round of golf without the problems that spikes can cause. Spikeless golf shoes are standard today.

The Evolution Continues

Golf shoes continue to evolve today, with brands such as Nike and Adidas developing lightweight shoes that borrow technology from other performance footwear. Today’s golf shoes more closely resemble athletic shoes used in sports such as running or soccer, and they will no doubt continue to evolve as new technologies and techniques are discovered.



Golf Skate Caddy is High-Tech at GreatLifeKC

Note: This is an excerpt from the September 2016 issue of Tee Times Golf Guide editorial by Bill Cromwell. Check out news, videos, and lots more at

One thing I’ve learned after publishing this magazine for the past 16 years is that the golf scene surrounding the Kansas City Metro Area is ever changing. Whether it’s a course closing, new management company, new ownership or employees, just wait a minute and change will happen. But, that can be a good thing, as complacency or stagnant waters can be the demise of greener fairways. Change in the golf arena is more often a good thing for golfers, often leading to better course conditions and, what all golfers like best, lower green fees and membership rates.

Just in case you haven’t noticed, GreatLife Golf & Fitness of Topeka, KS, has been very, very busy purchasing legions of golf courses throughout the area over the last 24 months.

As of 2016, the principal partners of GLGF include Rick Farrant, Doug Albers, Sam Vanlandingham, Butch Eaton and Jim Klausman.

Currently, GreatLife owns and operates 14 golf clubs within the GreatLife Golf KC market and over 50 clubs nationally, making it one of the nation’s top 20 golf management companies. “We have a proven formula combining golf and fitness along with other club amenities that provides a strong model for growth,” said Great Life Golf & Fitness founder Rick Farrant.

When asked, “What do you want golfers to experience when playing a GreatLife course?” Co-owner Doug Albers said, “We want to give members the feeling of belonging to their own primary golf club where they also have the ability to have an extended family of several other courses to play. Frequently, a private or public club member wants to play golf on a given day but learns their club has a tournament and is closed to open golf. With a GLKC membership, golfers will have access to any of our family of courses to play. Plus, this gives them different courses to play at any time they choose, rather than being locked into one course day after day.”

Albers says this concept works equally well for the state-of-the-art fitness facilities GLKC offers. “Let’s say, a member works in Independence, but lives in Overland Park. That member can work out at Drumm Farm in Independence during the day and then play golf at Deer Creek that evening after work. So, while you belong to the one golf club where you joined — you actually belong to 14. So, your regular playing group of friends can travel to different courses and new challenges.”

For golfers considering a private club membership, but find themselves questioning whether or not they want the same scenery and challenges day-in and day-out then GLKC has the answer — join one course and have reciprocal playing privileges to as many as 64 (at last count) golf courses nationally sprinkled throughout the Midwest. Not a bad deal!

With the most recent June and July acquisitions of Osage National Golf Club at the Lake of the Ozarks and Tall Grass Golf Club in Wichita, KS, members have the ability to make day trips or weekend golf outings with reciprocal playing privileges. With Osage National, members can take advantage of the on-property condos owned by GLKC, and take advantage of the Stay-and-Play packages offered for individual or group Lake golf trips.

“We want our members to feel like we’re glad they’re here,” said Farrant. “We want members to feel like their primary club is their own club and provide a friendly atmosphere. Evidence that this is working is at Staley Farms where we recently filled the membership. Canyon Farms, which went Private in April, only has less than 80 memberships left. When we get in there and do what we do — it’s exciting for the members and us.

“A big part of the business for us is fitness. Many of our fitness members are not golfers, but once they get in the gym and look out over the golf course just outside the window, they often start exploring the idea of taking up the game. In fact, I could tell you story after story of the fitness members I’ve seen who end up spending more time golfing than in the fitness gym.”

It’s evident that GreatLife Golf KC is 
committed to being on the cutting-edge with 
its recent offering of the new Golf Skate Caddy (GSC) at six of its KC area golf courses. A single stand-up golf transport board for the golf course that gives golfers the experience of surfing, and it’s a great workout for the core muscles. Renting for $25, about $5 more than a typical cart fee, the GSC will truly add a new element of fun to your round.

“We’re trying to appeal to a broad base — the entire family,” said Albers. “If you’re going to be playing golf anyway, wouldn’t you rather have the option to hop on a Golf Skate Caddy sailing around the course having fun? Especially for the younger golfers — they just add a lot of fun to your round, and in many cases, will speed up play.”

I can tell you firsthand, the Golf Skate Caddy is fun. We all like the idea of the traditional two-person golf cart and the social interaction it provides. But, sometimes a single rider type cart or the new GSC can also help you better concentrate on your game, and you tend to play better when you’re not distracted by chasing down your riding partner’s errant golf shots or listening to endless complaints about their last bad shot. It’s a proven fact that single rider transportation will speed-up the pace of play — that is always a good thing.

“Throughout the history of GreatLife, our leadership team has been committed to making a difference in the lives of children and families,” said Farrant. “Our charitable organization, the GreatLife Cares Foundation, is focused on enriching the lives of families through fitness, healthy lifestyles and golf.
“With fitness and gym memberships, there’s always a high turnover. If we can attract people to fitness, then introduce them to golf, and get them golfing often— then we have a member for life. A GreatLife?”

How Wearable Technology is Affecting the Game of Golf

Golf is a very old sport. In fact, while the modern sport refined by the Scottish is more than 500 years old, there are references in Dutch literature that seem to be talking about golf as early as the year 1261. More known for tradition than for cutting-edge technological advancements, the picture in your mind’s eye of a “typical golfer” most likely isn’t a young technophile. However, the sport of golf has seen a lot of science and technology infiltrate the game infiltrate the game in the last several decades, making gear, play style, and even courses obsolete. This series, Technology in Golf, looks to the advancements made or still to come in individual areas of the sport, from gear to courses to wearable tech. Stay tuned to for more installments! (See the previous installments, golf clubs or the history of technology in golf balls)

Golf is one of the sports that’s enjoyed by celebrities, executives, and people who just like to have their workout in beautiful surroundings while associating with friends and clients. Players like to keep a competitive edge, and wearable technology allows golfers to do that. Using wearable (and smart) technology to improve your game is growing in popularity, and the market is filling up with more gadgets and tricks to monitor your game, help improve your shot, and track performance on the course in real time (like tracking how far the distance your golf ball just traveled).

Wearable tech can help amateurs as well as pros with features like shot-tracking technology that automatically records shot information, such as club performance, shot dispersion, greens in regulation, sand saves and the number of putts per hole. 3D cameras can record your swings and provide feedback. Fitness and activity trackers can record your heart rate and distance walked on the course. Smart golf balls can track distance, or even use GPS or bluetooth to locate themselves if you shoot into the rough! Apps can record data for courses, track your par, record the time for each hole, and more. As we see technology advance and players adopting it to improve their game, I expect we can see even more products come on the scene.

A Garmin Product

Game Golf Live – GPS Shot Tracking is a system that gives players their stats in real time, The Bluetooth-enabled setup has a mobile app that is Android- and iOS-compatible. It becomes operational when golfers attach one sensor to their belt and another to the butt end of the club.

Before making a shot, player touch the sensor with the club. With the aid of their phone’s GPS, the position of each shot, the club selected, and where the ball lands are all recorded. Using their smartphone, golfers can view their stats as they play a round. (The layouts of 40,000 courses world wide are included in the software.) When golfers get back to their PC or Mac, they can upload the information and get astonishingly detailed stats and an analysis.

An Arccos Entry

The Arccos Golf Driver Automatic Stat Tracking system uses the GPS that’s built into the iPhone to keep on top of driver distances. There’s no need to tap the driver. This inexpensive device screws into the butt end of the grip of the driver. By looking at their phone after a shot, players see stats about their longest drives, fairways hit and missed, and averages of driving distances. The driver-only system easily distinguishes between actual and practice shots. Another feature is that players can engage in virtual driving games with other players around the world.

Apple and Garmin Watches

Not all wearable technology attaches to equipment. Watches are helpful to golfers too. The Garmin Approach S6 GPS watch has a color touchscreen. It’s loaded with maps of 40,000 courses around the world. Its features include SwingStrength, which tells players how hard they swing. SwingTempo delivers the ratio between a player’s upswing and downswing. PinPointers aids golfers in making shots when the pin can’t be seen.

The Apple Watch, Apple Watch 2 (GPS), and iPhone have a large number of apps available for players of this sport. They range from information about 33,00 courses worldwide, including distances to each hole, detailed views of courses, and more. Some apps are free. The watch has a color display. It also delivers weather forecasts and can guide golfers as they drive to the course.

Sports are full of competitive people who don’t shrink from using whatever product or technique they think may improve their performance. This list barely even touches the tip of the iceberg. While you’ll never see a pro actively using it in competitive play, wearing technology to record your game is, for a pro, just like doing a play-by-play for a football team after a game. The amount of data you can collect is invaluable to a professional sportsman.