The Joplin Globe, Joplin, MO

October 13, 2012

Revolutionary bunker system installed at Eagle Creek

By Clair Goodwin
Globe Columnist

— Billy’s Better Bunkers appears to be just that. Better, that is, as in easier to maintain and less likely to accumulate silt in the bottom.

The tongue-tripping name of this company belies the way that BBB is sweeping the golf world. It can be found in dozens of golf courses across the nation and at least one overseas.

Little wonder that Will Clark, superintendent at Eagle Creek Golf Club, finds himself answering dozens of phone, email and text inquiries about his satisfaction with the Billy’s Better Bunkers product.

Eagle Creek had been scheduled to be the 10th golf course in the nation to have BBB installed, but wound up in 11th place instead.

I got a first-hand look at the bunkering system during a tournament last month, but unfortunately — or fortunately — I never found my golf ball in any trap. I had been asked by Clark to walk into one of the traps and give him a personal assessment.

While I never got into a trap, I did stand on the edge of several traps and was impressed by the shaping around the edges of the bunker and texture of the white Arkansas sand. Several of the players who did find themselves in traps were impressed with the cleanliness of the sand and the lack erosion caused by rains or watering of greens.

The key to the BBB system, said Clark, is a specially treated two-inch gravel layer spread on the bottom and sides of the greens. The coated gravel not only keeps water flowing through the sand without collecting silt and junk in the bottom, but prevents costly washouts that not only require increased maintenance but leave ugly scars in the traps. There is no standing water even after heavy rains.

According to a testimonial on the website of Better Billy Bunker, Billy Fuller, former superintendent of Augusta National, BBB “improves what has been the best bunker construction spec in 25 years” and can increase the life expectancy of the bunkers.

As of the most recent update of the site, BBB has installed its product at 55 courses, including Bethpage State Park (black); The Country Club in Brookline, Maine.; Cowboys Golf Club in Grapevine, Texas; Gleneagles PGA, Centenary Course, Scotland; Horseshoe Bend Country Club, Roswell, Ga.; Indian Ridge Country Club, Palm Desert, Calif.; Magelian Golf Course, Hot Springs Village, Ark.; Napa Valley Country Club, Napa, Calif.; Oahu Country Club, Honolulu, Hawaii; Peachtree Golf Club, Atlanta, Ga.; Pecan Hollow Golf Course, Plano, Texas; Poppy Ridge Golf Club, Livermore, Calif.; Robert Trent Jones Golf Club, Manasses, Va.; TPC Scottsdale – Scottsdale, Ariz.; Valhalla Golf Club, Louisville, Ky.; and Winged Foot Golf Club, Mamaroneck, N.Y.

It would appear that Billy’s Better Bunkers is a wave that is sweeping golfing communities, at least those that can afford to refurbish their bunkers in these difficult economic times. But, given the potential for savings in maintenance costs and sand replacement, it may one day build into a tsunami.

Harold Thompson

I was on a golf course in Myrtle Beach, S.C., playing the game that Harold Thompson helped to teach me when I was stunned at word of the coach’s death reached me via a cell phone call from a close friend. I was, to put it mildly, stunned and saddened. People like Harold, Wendell Redden, J.P. Humphries, Dr. Donald Clark aren’t supposed to die. It causes waves in the equilibrium of the universe.

Harold had been a friend since I started working at the Globe as a sportswriter and we grew closer over the years by our shared passion for golf and teaching the game to youngsters. Hundreds of boys and girls in the Joplin area learned how to swing the club for the first time because of Harold. He loved not only the sports, but also kids.

I’m not certain whether Harold was drawn more to tennis or golf. He played both, frequently, enthusiastically and well. I suspect that he used tennis to keep himself in shape and golf to maintain physical and emotional control.

But what I am certain of is that all of us have lost another good guy, someone who cared and tried. Wherever people like Harold, Wendell, J.P., Dr. Clark and their kind walked, they made a difference.